Puerto Rican parade back on after funds flap

June 5, 2011- Residents and children take in June 5, 2011- Residents and children take in the Brentwood Puerto Rican Parade on Sunday, June 5, 2011. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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A parade that attracts thousands to Brentwood every year to celebrate Puerto Rican and Hispanic culture will go on for its 48th year in June, as the group has cleared the way to qualify for its share of county funds, organizers said Monday.

Nearly $31,000 in a taxpayer-funded grant approved by the Suffolk County Legislature for this year had been put on hold over the 2012 tax filing for Teatro Yerbabruja, a nonprofit that runs the event. According to the Suffolk County comptroller's initial review, the group was among three dozen agencies exceeding administrative spending limits.

County officials confirmed that Teatro Yerbabruja now is eligible to receive county funding after showing most of its expenses go to community programs.

That means the parade, scheduled for June 1, will go on, organizers said.

"We are happy, and the important thing is now to call for unity and continue our work," said Margarita Espada, the nonprofit's artistic director.

She said the parade "revitalizes the local economy and also offers a social space where people can experience each other's cultures and celebrate who we are."

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The quest for the funds had led parade organizers to clash with Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), who attempted to give $5,000 granted for the event to a group running a summer camp program.

The parade had been promised $30,840 under then-Legis. Rick Montano, who Martinez defeated in September's Democratic primary. But the funds were in peril because a 2007 Suffolk law says that contract agencies can't have administrative expenses greater than 20 percent to receive county funding.

The group and the county confirmed Monday that Teatro Yerbabruja filed an amended federal tax return itemizing expenses that lowered its self-reported administrative costs from 59 percent to 14 percent.

"The next step would be that they would work with their legislator . . . to complete a contract," Suffolk County Comptroller Joseph Sawicki Jr. said.

Another 24 groups, out of 36 agencies that exceeded the 20-percent threshold, have not yet presented sufficient documentation to get the go-ahead for county funds.

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