Theresa Sanders, ousted as CEO of the Urban League of Long Island after the nonprofit alleged she mismanaged its funds, also faces possible removal from the Suffolk County Community College board of trustees after missing a series of meetings.
The College Board on Thursday delayed action on a resolution that could trigger her removal. At the same meeting, Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin, a member of the legislature's Education and Labor Committee, said she would try to expel Sanders through another mechanism. The board president, who also is Sanders' personal attorney, decried the move as “political grandstanding.”
Sanders, appointed to the unpaid board in 2011, was absent from its four most recent meetings on April 20, May 11, June 15 and Aug. 17. College bylaws say when a trustee appointed by the county legislature, such as Sanders, is absent from four consecutive meetings, their seat is considered vacant unless the absences are excused by the board.
The board voted 6-0 to table a resolution excusing her absences until their Oct. 19 meeting. Sanders and board president E. Christopher Murray, an attorney who represents Sanders in a lawsuit filed by the Urban League, recused themselves from the vote and left the room.
The lawsuit, filed in August, alleges Sanders mismanaged about $200,000 of the nonprofit’s funds. She has denied wrongdoing.
Supreme Court Judge Christopher Quinn ruled she must step down but did not rule on the mismanagement claims. In September, Sanders filed a counter claim alleging the Urban League owes her $250,000 for taking a reduced salary over several years.
A spokeswoman for Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly previously confirmed an ongoing investigation, declining additional comment.
Murray defended Sanders on Thursday, saying her absences were related to health matters and a family reunion in Jamaica. He blamed Bergin (R-East Islip) for publicly criticizing them for a legal issue that is still pending.
“I’m just so frustrated at the political opportunism that is being taken advantage of … diverting the attention of this institution from what it's supposed to be doing,” he said. “It’s just shameless. Absolutely shameless.”
Bergin told the board she was “troubled” that Murray represents Sanders while also serving as board president, and called for Sanders’ removal due to excessive absences.
“Mr. Murray can blame Trish Bergin for shedding light on a very, very bad situation, but I didn’t create that situation,” she said. “Miss Sanders created that situation. Mr. Murray created that situation.”
Suffolk County's charter allows the legislature to remove their appointees, and Bergin said she would discuss that option with the Education and Labor Committee and legislative attorney Bill Duffy.
Committee Chairman Jim Mazzarella (R-Moriches) said: “I will ensure that our committee continues to have dialogue on this and other issues regarding the college and its Board of Trustees.”
Sanders declined to comment.
Also Thursday, the board voted 8-0 to approve a new contract with the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College, expected to cost the school $9.6 million over four years. The union includes 397 full-time and 1,100 adjunct faculty members.
The contract, which runs from 2022 through 2026, includes a 2.75% raise for 2023 and 2.95% raises in 2024 and 2025. It also includes a retroactive 1.6% raise for 2022.
The contract requires final approval from the county legislature.