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City Probes Harlem Group Overseeing Thousands of Affordable Housing Units

By  James Fanelli and Jeff Mays | November 4, 2016 7:29am | Updated on November 4, 2016 8:12am

 Derek Broomes was fired as the CEO and president of Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement after he was investigated for fiduciary misconduct, records show.
Derek Broomes was fired as the CEO and president of Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement after he was investigated for fiduciary misconduct, records show.
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Facebook/Derek Broomes

HARLEM — City investigators have opened a probe into a 30-year-old nonprofit that has developed and operated thousands of affordable housing units in Harlem, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The Department of Investigation probe began after the nonprofit, Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, did its own internal review of alleged fiduciary misconduct by its CEO and president, Derek Broomes, and chief financial officer, Maria MacLoraine, according to sources. The nonprofit gave both Broomes and MacLoraine the ax in April, sources said.

One source close to the nonprofit who asked not to be named to protect working relationships said Broomes' actions as president were the basis for the ongoing DOI investigation.

"This was pretty much one person who had a lot of control and he was able to do things he wasn't supposed to do," said the source. "That happens when you trust one person to do their job."

Another source close to HCCI who also requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the organization, said that the HCCI had begun "cleaning house" after dismissing Broomes, who had been there since 2002. It was not immediately clear how long MacLoraine had been with the nonprofit.

Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement is a coalition of churches in the Harlem area that banded together in 1986 to develop moderate- and low-income housing with the help of city and other government funding.

The group's website says that since its start, it has developed 3,200 affordable units with $240 million in city, state and federal funding passing through it. In its most recent federal tax filing, for the 2015 fiscal year, the nonprofit reported that it received $2 million in government funding. Since 2007 it has received $500,000 in city contracts, records show.

Most recently, the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development put out a press release in July to laud the opening of the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Curtis Plaza at 260 W. 153rd St. in Harlem. The plaza, which has 50 units of affordable housing and a day care center, was a partnership among HPD, Harlem Congregations and affordable housing builder L+M Development.

But Harlem Congregations has been slammed in recent years by some of its tenants who have complained about poor living conditions and upkeep.

DNAinfo New York reported in 2014 that tenants at the nonprofit's 85-unit building at 262 W. 153 St. said they planned to withhold their rent after they were without gas for a month.

The New York Post reported in 2013 that tenants at the nonprofit's Charles Inniss Housing Development in West Harlem said they were living in horrible conditions and were forced to walk through sewage at least once a month to get to their building's elevator.

Court records also show that an American Express corporate card linked to the nonprofit had racked up nearly $36,000 in charges.

American Express sued the nonprofit for the money in Manhattan Supreme Court in May 2015 after the group failed to make payments on the balance. The nonprofit reached a settlement with American Express on Wednesday, agreeing to pay back the charges by Jan. 31, 2017.

Canon Financial Services also sued the nonprofit in Manhattan Supreme Court in 2011 for failing to make payments for six months on a $451,471 balance it owed for leasing office equipment. The lawsuit was settled in 2015.

Broomes made $195,422 a year as the CEO and president, according to the nonprofit's 2015 fiscal year tax filing. A year earlier, the nonprofit reported that Broomes made $136,866, according to tax filings.

Broomes, who was once chief financial officer for the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, could not be reached for comment.

MacLoraine could not be reached for comment.

Harlem Congregations declined to comment.