Iona College President James Liguori, Mired in Embezzlement Scandal, Wades into New Rochelle District 3 City Council Race

Written By: Robert Cox

Brother Ligouri.jpgIona College President Brother James Liguori has sent a thinly-veiled threat letter to City Council District 3 candidate Peter Parente promising to use “use all means at our disposal” to “make our case” (i.e., defeat Parente if he opposes a proposed dormitory) before the “next general election in 2011”. Liguori described Iona students as “a force to be reckoned with”, a force whose voices “deserves to be heard”.

If elected tomorrow, Parente will fill the unexpired one-year remaining on Jim Stowe’s term. Stowe died unexpectedly in August setting up a special election.

The nakedly partisan political letter sent to a Republican candidate for City Council and cc’d to Noam Bramson, the de facto leader of the Democratic party, shows a picture of Liguori at odds with his public image. He comes off as a bullying cleric engaged in hardball politics more concerned with the bottom line at the college than the quality of life for residents who have endured loud parties, drunken students, open drug use and vomit-stained sidewalks for years courtesy of the Catholic college.

Liguori took issue with a quote attributed to Parente in the The New Rochelle Sound Report:

“That area is overpopulated right now. Building a new dorm would diminish the quality of life for the surrounding area. There are plenty of kids being rowdy coming home from parties (emphasis added by Liguori).”

Claiming that “1,800 Iona College students reside in the district and are eligible to vote” and that more broadly thousands of Iona alums live in New Rochelle, Liguori stated that he intends to “encourage all of these ‘voices’ to be heard before the next general election in 2011”. Board of Election records show that few Iona College students are registered to vote in New Rochelle and even less in District 3 suggesting that Iona College intends to push students to register to vote using their student residence addresses in order to influence the outcome of the 2011 election.

All of this comes at a time when Liguori’s own leadership is under question after his former assistant stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the college.

Iona College, which pays no taxes to the City of New Rochelle, has sought for years to manipulate political outcomes to their benefit, currying favor with City officials including, in one case, a questionable real estate transaction involving a former City Manager. The school’s men’s basketball program has been the subject of various NCAA violations going back many years. Two weeks ago, as Talk of the Sound first reported, Liguori’s watch, Sister Marie Thornton stole $800,000 over a ten year period, something Liguori sought to hide from alums, donors and supporters of the college. The amount reported stolen — which some say is lower than the actual figure — represents just under 5% of the college’s total endowment of $20 million.

The text of the letter is as follows:

(Br.) James A. Ligouri, CFC
President

October 28, 2010

Mr. Peter Parente
Brookside Place
New Rochelle, NY 10801

Dear Mr. Parente:

I read with much interest the article in last week’s issue of The New Rochelle Sound Report. Of particular import was the article about the race to fill the vacated seat in District 3 for the council person’s position.

Some of the quotes attributed to you included the following in relationship to our proposed new residence hall: “That area is overpopulated right now. Building a new dorm would diminish the quality of life for the surrounding area. There are plenty of kids being rowdy coming home from parties.”

You have obviously spent time listening to some of the constituents in District 3. What distresses me is that you did not take the time to reach out to Iona College which has the largest number of registered voters in the district and, therefore, deserves to be heard.

We estimate that approximately 1,800 Iona College students reside in the district and are eligible to vote are, therefore, a force to be reckoned with. In addition, many of the business owners in District 3 also deserve to be heard. Finally, over 2,000 Iona alums live in New Rochelle and also deserve to have their voices heard.

Iona College intends to encourage all of these “voices” to be heard before the next general election in 2011 In order to facilitate this, we are mounting a major letter writing campaign in the near future. The residence hall project is critical to Iona College’s future and we are proposing building it on land that is zoned for that use. It is up to the consultants to determine density and other issues and present those findings to the City Council. Quite honestly, it doesn’t seem to contribute to the usual dialog to rehash old arguments about parties, etc.

I hope that we will be given an opportunity to make our case and that our collective voice will be heard. At the end of the day, we will use all means at our disposal to make that case. If you are elected next week, I hope that you will reach out to me to begin that process.

cc. Honorable Noam Bramson

24 thoughts on “Iona College President James Liguori, Mired in Embezzlement Scandal, Wades into New Rochelle District 3 City Council Race”

  1. everyone should read letter
    I just listened to the city mgr. show on wxox Mr.Cox called in to ask the mgr.that people were saying things were wrong on his site Mr. Cox informed him that he is easy access. The mgr said he should check this story. The mayor is not involved in this letter well he is why is he cc’d at the end.Read the letter Mr. Strome you also stated that jarred rice received almost the same letter where is it i would love to see it!!

      1. Who’s in Liguori’s back pocket
        Why would a letter to the next council person, yea I am jumping the gun, be ccd to the mayor ? All of Bramson’s rubber stamp lackies are running scared.

  2. who is the real leader
    First off his real name is Arnold and not Arnie.Now are you saying when it comes to New Rochelle Noam is not in charge of the meetings held by democratic committee? I don’t think your right about that was it not Noam who made candidates sigh a pledge not to seek a seat if they did not win a committee vote? I Seem to remember that.I also remember Noam to be the voice for the democrats in New Rochelle. If you do not see a threat in Brother Ligouri letter then we are not reading the same letter.When he says {therefore a force to be reckoned with} i hear a threat. How come Iona now wants it’s students to be heard what about all the other years? Is Noam getting in his ear? Is there yet another back room deal coming in a way of a new dorm on mayflower avenue. Let’s see if his so called letter writing campaign goes off if the democratic wins in this election?

    1. Reply to ‘eye on new roc’ regarding “Who is the Real Leader”
      I, myself, am a Member of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee and of the Westchester Democratic Committee, by virtue of Petitioning and not by appointment. I am nobody’s rubber stamp and am openly critical of anyone who is. I represent New Rochelle’s Election District 19 (Westchester 210019). This is one of the largest Election Districts in New Rochelle, and includes much of downtown New Rochelle, from North Ave to Kings Hwy, from I-95 to Main St.

      I attend almost all the New Rochelle and Westchester Democratic Committee Meetings, and at Committee meetings I regularly ask pointed questions of, and make statements to, all of the elected Democrat officials who come to the monthly New Rochelle Democratic Committee meetings. Such elected Democrat officials include Mayor Noam Bramson, Councilpersons Marianne Sussman (not a relative), Barry Fertel, the late Jim Stowe, Assemblypersons Amy Paulin and George Latimer, NYS Senators Suzi Oppenheimer and Jeff Klein, of County Clerk Tim Idoni, and of our County Legislators. I also regularly ask pointed questions of, and make statements to NR Democratic Committee Chair Arnie Klugman at NR Democratic Committee meetings. Additionally I am in regular contact with the same elected Democrats by email, mail, telephone and private conversations.

      Anyone is mistaken and ignorant of the facts, who thinks Noam Bramson even attempts to run New Rochelle Democratic Committee meetings. I can assure you in all certainty, with full knowledge, and all truthfulness, that Noam has never run any New Rochelle Democratic Committee meetings. At New Rochelle Democratic Committee meetings, Noam and the other City Councilpersons patiently wait their turn to speak to, and respond to questions of, the 130+ Members of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee, commonly referred to as ‘District Leaders’. But none of the Democrats elected to government offices run the New Rochelle Democratic Committee, even though many including Tim Idoni, Noam Bramson, Barry Fertel, Marianne Sussman and Roxie Stowe, are themselves New Rochelle Democratic District Leaders.

      ‘Eye on New Roc’, you are mistaken to think that Noam “made candidates sign a pledge not to seek a seat if they did not win a committee vote. No candidate was asked to sign a pledge, nor obligated to state they would not “seek a seat if they did not win a committee vote”. This is because neither Noam Bramson nor Arnie Klugman had the power to force such an obligation, under the rules of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee. Obviously most individual Democratic District Leaders would prefer avoiding a primary as primaries are often destructive to the winner as well as to the loser.

      The timing of Jim Stowe’s death resulting in the sudden nature of the Special Election for City Council District 3, was such, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to Petition to run for City Council this year nor time for a resulting primary, as the NY State statutorily mandated period (early June thru mid July) for Petitioning had already occurred. So even if Noam wished candidates to sign such a pledge, it would have been a meaningless exercise having no real effect.

      I have brought up these details to explain the democratic processes involved in seeking nomination by the New Rochelle Democratic Committee, and to restate that Noam Bramson does not run the NR Dem Committee, and has no power to determine who wins nominations, and that according to the Rules of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee, for City-Wide offices, all nominations are made by the 130+ Members of the NR Dem Committee on private paper ballots for whomever they individually choose to nominate.

      In the case of Jared Rice’s nomination, this was done in a private vote, on paper ballot, but only by those Members of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee representing Election Districts in the 3rd City Council District. Noam is a District Leader representing Election District 11 in Council District 5, and was unable to vote in the 3rd City Council District City Council Nominating Convention. I also was unable to participate in the 3rd City Council District City Council Nominating Convention, because I live in and represent Election District 19 in Council District 4. I have no reason to believe that Noam influenced Jared’s selection at all, nor am I aware who Noam preferred to be nominated, and as to whether it was Jared or one of several other candidates who sought the nomination. The 3rd City Council District City Council Nominating Convention’s selection was confirmed unanimously by all of the Members of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee at our monthly meeting on Sept 20, 2010.

      ‘Eye on New Roc’ stated “I also remember Noam to be the voice for the democrats in New Rochelle”. Whatever your memory seems to be, the fact that you have heard something doesn’t make it true. Actually, every Democrat in New Rochelle is the voice of the Democrats in New Rochelle. Noam’s voice is no more the voice of the Democrats in New Rochelle, than is Roxie Stowe’s, Barry Fertel’s, Marianne Sussman’s, Arnie Klugman’s, mine, or any other Registered Democrat in New Rochelle. Noam’s voice is that of himself, and as the Mayor of New Rochelle, and as one of the seven Members of the City Council, four of whom are Democrats. One might consider Noam to be the voice of the Democrats on the City Council, but I doubt the other Democratic City Council Member want their own voices denied as also being the voice of the Democrats of New Rochelle. Furthermore, Tim Idoni is also a very active Member of the New Rochelle Democratic Committee, and as County Executive (and Bramson’s predecessor as NR Mayor), can be perceived as being more of the voice of the New Rochelle Democratic Party than Noam, if an individual were to mistakenly be considered the single voice of the New Rochelle Democrats.

      Republicans are confused on such things, because the Republican Party seems to be to be rather monolithic, with many Republicans seemingly following the dictates of their leaders, apparently as rubber stamps, so Republicans often mistakenly project their own Party’s deficiencies on the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, at least in New Rochelle but probably in general, is rather democratic and varied, with all sorts of cross-currents, and is anything but monolithic or dictatorial. Anyone trying to dictate to the NR Democratic District Leaders, is likely to meet with serious feedback, and with lack of support. Anyone trying to speak to the NR Democratic District Leaders, is likely to be seriously listened to, and if a convincing case is made, to be supported. But as Will Rogers stated, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!”

      I see no threat in Brother Ligouri’s statement to register Iona students to vote in New Rochelle. That could only be considered a threat by those who fear voter participation and democracy in action. Personally, I go around registering voters all the time, and encourage this of all citizens regardless of their Party preference or political beliefs or ethnic considerations.

      To all of this, I need to mention, I personally think Iona and Monroe College have over-built in New Rochelle, and I do not wish to see Iona build more dorms. In general, I am consistently critical of over-development and over-population in New Rochelle, and would rather see the City Council and City Manager focus on commerce providing sales tax rather than construction with dubious results. So I do not personally support Brother Ligouri’s desire to build more dorms. But I always support voter registration and voter participation, and I support using issues as a basis for voter registration drives, as long as those issues are not based on encouraging bigotry whether aimed at ethnic, racial or other demographic considerations. I consider those persons who are against registering students to vote, to be bigoted against young people, and I condemn such bigotry.

      1. Question about voter registration
        What was the last day that people could register in order to vote in this election?

      2. What was the last day people could register in order to vote?
        The following criteria were set for 2010 by the NY State Board of Elections based on NYS Election Law:

        MAIL REGISTRATION Sec. 5-210(3)

        Applications must be postmarked not later than October 8th and received by a board of elections not later than October 13th to be eligible to vote in the General Election.

        IN PERSON REGISTRATION Secs. 5-210, 5-211, 5-212

        You may register at your local board of elections or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act, on any business day throughout the year but, to be eligible to vote in the November general election, your application must be received no later than October 8th except, if you have been honorably discharged from the military or have become a naturalized citizen since October 8th, you may register in person at the board of elections up until October 22nd.

        CHANGE OF ADDRESS Sec. 5-208(3)

        Notices of change of address from registered voters received by October 13th by a county board of elections must be processed and entered in the records in time for the general election.

        **************************************************

        To the above information I need to mention party affiliation. You need not register to a political party, but by doing so you will be able to sign that party’s petitions and to vote in that party’s primaries. Your individual vote is has much more value in a primary than in a general election because of the relatively poor voter turnout at most primary elections.

        If you change your party affiliation, without changing your address, your party affiliation doesn’t change until the day after the following September Primary Day.

        If you changed your party affiliation the day before a September Primary Day, the change would be effective two days later.

        But if you changed your party affiliation the day after a September Primary Day, the change would be effective one year later.

        However, if you change your registration address at the same time as you change your party affiliation, then your party affiliation changes at the same time as your address change does. This is of course, also true for new registrations.

        Keep in mind, the final registration dates above is for 2010, and those dates will be slightly modified each year, and are relative to the date that Election Day occurs in any given year.

        I hope all of this is helpful.

  3. Who is the actual leader of the New Rochelle Democratic Party?
    You wrote “Noam Bramson, the de facto leader of the Democratic party”.

    Thia is inaccurate and untrue. The actual leader of the New Rochelle Democratic Party is the Chair, Arnie Klugman.

    Noam Bramson is actually the Mayor of New Rochelle, and as such is the President of the New Rochelle City Council, a body that includes both Democrats and Republicans. Noam is the senior Democrat on the City Council, if not as Mayor, then because he has served longer than the other Democrats. Noam is not the de facto leader of the Democratic Party, but just like the other Democratic City Council members, reports to the New Rochelle Democratic Committee at the monthly meetings of that 130+ member body.

    I have no comments on Brother Liguori, his intent, purpose or his statement, other than to say I see no veiled threat in his statement. In our democracy everyone, including Robert Cox and Brother Liguori, has the right to petition their grievances to the government, and, aside from the Hatch Act, to be fully involved in our electoral process.

    Regarding your fears that Iona College students might register to vote in New Rochelle in the Election and City Council Districts they reside in, I need to point out that in a democracy, this is something to be encouraged but not discouraged by all civic minded persons. Of course what really matters is that people actually vote in every election.

    1. get a dictionary
      Once again Brian, you come on the site to revel in your ignorance.

      Go look up the difference between “de facto” and “de jure” and then come back when you can demonstrate a basic understanding of language. Arnold Klugman is the “de jure” leader of the Democartic Party. He hold the title, right? Noam Bramson is the DE FACTO leader of the Democrats in New Rochelle just as Barack Obama is the DE FACTO leader of the Democrats nationally. Unless you think that Tim Kaine tells Barack Obama what to do.

      Liguori’s letter is a nakedly political letter sent to a Republican candidate for office and copied to the leader of the Democrats in New Rochelle. If the letter was sent to an elected official you might have a point but this letter was sent days before the election to a candidate in a key race that will determine the balance of power on the City Council.

  4. Overconfident
    I am one of those 2000 Iona alums that Br Ligouri refers to in his letter, that lives New Rochelle, and specifically I live in district 3. I have also seen my property taxes nearly triple in the span of 14 years. A vote for Peter Parente is a vote for real change to the status quo that has kept this city on a path of taxing its citizens into becoming former citizens, and giving away everything to wealthy developers that give nothing back, and place undue burden on city services. Jared Rice, is another Bramson rubber stamp, who quite frankly, after listening to his nonsensical ramblings i.e. his “4 point plan”, scares me to death. He doesn’t seem to have a clue. Br. Ligouri, change your projection to 1999 alums, because this one is voting for Peter Parente, now, and in 2011!!

    1. While i dont live in
      While i dont live in district three i have rollerbladed by the campus with some regularity. I am a bit of a kindred spirit with sister suzi. Really what is this letter but an attempt to distract from the issue at hand? I say build the tower, install new stop lights, and open up a starbucks. Only then can this community move forward and heal.

      iRoberta the Postperson

  5. Noam Bramson lived in Larchmont
    when he was elected to New Rochelle, I know because he rented a house from my friend. Rice moved to district 3 just for this election. Iona (which I graduated from in 1992) should be embarrassed by this letter and the real question is why does Brother L. believe he has Noam and Rice in his pocket already?

  6. No Brotherly Love
    Shame on you BROTHER Liguori. It is utterly distasteful that a practicing Catholic and College president would go out of his way to attempt to intimidate and strong arm City Council Candidate Peter Parente. Using a distorted and exaggerated estimate of potential registered voters to manipulate Mr. Parente into having to “see you” prior to speaking out regarding Iona’s push to over-expand in his neighborhood is impractical and unprofessional. I know Peter Parente personally and I find it interesting that you would choose the avenue of letter writing rather than just calling him to address your opinions. Peter lives within walking distance of Iona as well and surely would have been more than willing to sit down with you to hear your concerns. I wonder if you were aware of this potentially hurting your image when you personally signed your “threat letter” to Peter. If the letter misrepresents what you want the public to see about Iona’s President, a respectful public apology letter to Peter Parente might want to be the next item on your list of ” things to do” in the near future.

  7. Keep his thoughts to himself
    Brother Liguori you should not threaten your forces on the people of district 3 or the residents of this city. The people of this city have to bear alot from Iona and it’s student body. Iona pays very little for the services it receives from the taxpayers of this city. Has the other candidates reached out to the Iona public? And why did you cc our mayor and not the paper who published this article? Maybe you should keep your own house in order first before you make threats to our next district 3 councilman . I would like to see you get the Iona kids to vote but maybe you should get kegs of beer at the polling places this way they will get out of bed to vote.

    1. Brother makes full plate fuller
      south side man
      Brother with all the thing”s going on in your world
      now ,do you think trying to BULLY your way to getting what you want from a city that is sick and tired of PAYING for ALL The BURDEN that Iona bring’s to us.And let’s not forget the FREE tax benefits you recieve .But lets not forget that HUH.
      P.S. Hows that investigation going? Has N.C.A.A calld yet?????????
      Have they found Sister yet? Yea you remember her the SCAPE GOAT!!!!!!!!!!!

      The Irish Christian brothers I remember, that my farther brought home to dinner all the time, back in the day .I am sure ( if they were still alive )would want a big piece of your hyde!!!!!!

      1. Give the guy a break!
        First off although I am not in D3 I am pulling for Peter. Having said that I am not the slightest bit put off by Liguori’s position.

        He has a college to run, and to expand. He has every right to posture against a potential road block from city officials.

        Let’s also remember the unofficial buffer that the college provides in this city. Furthermore any additional development that brings students to New Rochelle also brings their wallets to merchants in the city, which enhances sales tax revenue.

      2. I personally don’t have any
        I personally don’t have any problem with Iona expanding and if they want a dorm, let them build it.

        Iona students buzzing around North Ave. are one of the few bright spots in that area of New Rochelle and should be supported. We certainly don’t need any more section 8 tenants or housing projects.

        The fact that Iona doesn’t pay any property taxes yet they use a tremenous amount of city services does bother me.

        Under this scenario, I would strongly support a pay as you go approach where charges/fees are imposed for each fire, police and ambulance call, with 1 or 2 freebies allowed per year per household or tax parcel.

      3. How about this !!!!
        south side man,
        Let them build!!!!!!!!!!
        But only on taxable properties,They have gobbled up enough of New Rochelle and made it tax free ,and believe me they charge their students a pretty penny for there housing. I know they call me all the time looking for less expencive housing.

        Let them buy property, develope it, and pay some taxes.The housing department of Iona Is a BUISNESS it is not EDUCATIONAL.. AND IT SCHOULD BE TAXED!!!
        How much do they want from us .I can agree with tax free educational properties,but this housing is abuisness and it is getting out of hand.

        If they buy properties that need developing, they will be helping to rebuild what needs to be .That’s how you get public support….

      4. Great idea Southside!
        And I don’t think Iona should be tax exempt anyway as its not exactly a church, but that being said, a compromise allowing the school to build the dorms but on taxable property seems to make a lot of sense.

        Can the city challenge Iona’s tax exempt status, I don’t know, but I can tell you this, I went to a small college in upstate NY that was about the same size as Iona (and most likely similar tuitions) and my school used to pump in MILLIONS of dollars into the local government via property taxes so I see no reason why Iona couldn’t contribute too. Shameless that they hide behind religon to avoid paying taxes.

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