Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - A nonprofit organization set up to distribute donations from the New York Yankees to community groups in the Bronx has been sued by a lawyer who, until recently, was the fund’s administrator and spokesman.

In a suit filed in a Bronx court on Tuesday, attorney Michael Drezin accused the chairman of the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund of mismanagement.

His main allegation is that the chairman, Serafin Mariel, engaged in a conflict of interest by depositing $800,000 of the fund’s money in a non-interest-bearing account at a bank he co-founded, rather than at an independent institution that would pay a better return.

Drezin also claims that the nonprofit owes him $35,000 for his services.

The suit seeks that pay, plus additional penalties, and Mariel’s removal as chairman.

Mariel did not immediately respond Wednesday to a phone message left at his office at New York National Bank. His lawyer, Irwin Underweiser, also did not immediately return a phone message.

The fund was set up as part of the Yankees’ deal for a new stadium in the Bronx. The arrangement required the team to give $800,000 per year to Bronx community groups, plus several hundred thousand dollars worth of free tickets and merchandise.

The fund has been criticized in some quarters for taking too long to get money to community groups, but Drezin said his lawsuit was not related to those complaints and that he had seen no evidence of improprieties in how money was being awarded.

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