Fall of Schneiderman need not be a blow to New York nonprofits

Eric Schneiderman
Eric Schneiderman
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Eric Schneiderman was an ally of the nonprofit sector, a legacy his successor should follow.

Fall of Schneiderman need not be a blow to New York nonprofits

Schneiderman's successor should follow his legacy
May 9, 2018

I was driving from Albany to Olean in Cattaraugus County to visit a member nonprofit when I first read the headline that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had resigned over alleged allegations of assault. My first reaction was shock. My second was disbelief, as I quickly checked to see if this was fake news.

My third reaction, was ‘damn, is this going to upend what has been a great working relationship that New York Council of Nonprofits has had during Schneiderman's tenure with the AG’s Charities Bureau?’

The irony is that this news came just a day following a state legislative success that would not have been possible without the full backing of the AG. Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Michael Ranzenhofer introduced a bill with NYCON’s support to mirror the federal Johnson Amendment in New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation Law. If passed, our state would be the first in the nation to take action to protect the nonprofit community from efforts by the Trump administration and Congress to erode the protections nonprofits enjoy as non-partisan organizations.

Under Schneiderman, the Charities Bureau has been led by Jason Lilian and now James Sheehan. The achievements of the bureau have been extraordinary and have included the passage for the Nonprofit Revitalization Act and various improvement amendments over the past several years; the creation of this website as a fantastic resource for nonprofits and the public, the sponsorship of Charities Symposiums in communities across the state, support for establishing CharitySTRONG to strengthen nonprofit governance through online training and recruitment, aggressive actions against our sector’s “bad apples" and, the list goes on and on.

What we at NYCON and our 3,000 plus statewide members have most appreciated is that although the Charities Bureau is fundamentally a regulatory and enforcement body, it has also been dedicated to building and strengthening the nonprofit community. The bureau has been highly accessible to us, presenting annually at our member meeting, Camp Finance, making it a point to regularly reach out to us to hear and share perspectives and trends, and always looking for how the bureau can be of assistance.

Bottom line is that NYCON - as the nonprofit sector’s statewide association - has had a relationship with the Charities Bureau during Schneiderman’s tenure that has been a true partnership and, as evidenced in a workshop held earlier this year at the National Association of State Charities Officials annual conference, it is a national model. We trust that the next attorney general will continue this success.

Doug Sauer
Doug Sauer
is chief executive officer of the New York Council of Nonprofits.
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