Fair of Foul: Monroe County Legislator Receiving Kickback From ARPA Funding?

More suspicion is growing after allegations of mismanagement of funds by the Community Resource Collaborative(CRC). Now, we are taking a deep dive into another organization receiving funding.

In December 2022, the Monroe County Legislature approved funding of over $98 million in grants through the American Rescue Plan Act(ARPA). CRC was awarded $7.1 Million to create wraparound services and neighborhood outreach for community organizations.

One of the organizations that received funding from CRC is the Father Tracy Advocacy Center. The website states that it provides essential services to the homeless and transient population, such as free bagged lunches, water, and access to a clothing bank. Additionally, they aim to address the region’s opioid epidemic by connecting individuals ready to start their recovery journey to appropriate services.

However, according to documents filed in 2019, Monroe County Legislator Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons incorporated the organization. Vazquez-Simmons represents the 22nd Legislative District in the Northeast after defeating Vince Felder in 2021. The legislator is one of many legislators who unanimously voted to approve funding for the organizations.

We reached out to the legislator and others for comment and received the following information from Carlos Rodriguez, Attorney At Law on behalf of Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons:

“In February of 2018, at the request of Father Laurence Tracy of St. Michael’s Church who expressed his desire to me to form a not-for-profit corporation in his name that would “provide community residents with access to trained professional volunteers who can immediately assist, mentor and navigate through pressing issues and /or specific problems affecting their health, finances, governmental benefits, housing, educational, immigration and possibly other ailments” in accordance with the mission statement filed with the Certificate of Incorporation filed with New York State Secretary of State who accepts the certificate and approved the Corporation as a formal legal entity on August 8, 2018. This was to become his legacy.”

The statement continues, “Father Tracy specifically chose the following individuals he asked to be named to lead the mission: Father Laurence Tracy-Honoree / Incorporator and Founder 16 Siebert Street Rochester, New York 14605 Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons- Incorporator / Filer Board President and Treasurer PO Box 14802 Rochester, New York 14609 Father Robert Worth, St. Michael’s Church Board Secretary 859 N. Clinton Avenue Rochester, New York 14605 Rondolfo A. Rivera Board Member 133 Elmwood Terrace Rochester, New York 14620 A charitable corporation formed in New York must have at least three board members.”

“Sadly, Father Tracy died on August 16, 2018, after a valiant battle with ALS. Two months after the Certificate of Incorporation was filed, Mercedes Vazquez Simmons resigned from “The Father Laurence Tracy Advocacy Center, Inc.” due to changes that were made following Father Tracy’s death that no longer followed the mission statement of the organization. It is also my understanding that the name of the organization has been changed to “The Father Tracy Advocacy Center”.

The letter states Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons resigned from the Father Tracy Advocacy Center in October 2018. However, the documents to incorporate filed on May 8, 2019, display the signature of Vazquez-Simmons.

The revelations surrounding the connection between Vazquez-Simmons and Father Advocacy Center have triggered alarms and inquiries into legislative integrity. The potential for unknown kickbacks raises ethical concerns and sparks the question, “How were organizations selected?”

Developing…

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