Connect with us

District of Columbia

Casa Ruby receiver files complaint against Ruby Corado, former board members

Wanda Alston Foundation seeks restitution, ‘punitive damages’

Published

on

Casa Ruby founder Ruby Corado in El Salvador. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

The Wanda Alston Foundation, which assumed control over the operations of the LGBTQ community services group Casa Ruby in August under a court appointed receivership role, filed its own civil complaint on Dec. 23 in D.C. Superior Court against former Casa Ruby Executive Director Ruby Corado and eight former members of the Casa Ruby board of directors.   

News of the Wanda Alston Foundation complaint surfaced at a Jan. 6 D.C. Superior Court status hearing for the pending civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Corado filed by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General this past July and as amended by the office with additional allegations in November.

The attorney general’s complaint, among other things, alleges that Casa Ruby, under Corado’s leadership, violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings. The amended complaint charges that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador. 

For unexplained reasons, the Superior Court’s online court records, including the court docket, did not show that the Wanda Alston Foundation had filed its separate complaint against Corado and the board members as of Friday, the day of the court status hearing.

The court docket as of Jan. 6 also did not show that the Wanda Alston Foundation on Dec. 16 filed its Receiver’s Third Interim Report, which is highly critical of Corado and the Casa Ruby board. The Washington Blade obtained copies of the interim report and the Wanda Alston Foundation complaint from the court’s media and public affairs director.

The Wanda Alston Foundation complaint identifies each of the eight former board members as defendants and “respectfully request[s] restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, receivership fees and expenses, court costs, attorneys’ fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.”

The board of directors “failed to hold regular meetings and/or maintain official records — thereby exercising no oversight or governance over the organization,” the complaint states.

“Ever Alfaro, Carlos Gonzales, Consuella Lopez, Jackie Martinez, Hassan Naveed, Jack Quintana-Harrison (sic), Miguel Rivera and Meredith Zotlick were directors of Casa Ruby, Inc.,” the complaint says. “By neglecting their duty to provide any oversight and governance, they engaged in a persistent course of conduct that caused tortious injury to the organization,” the complaint states.

Harrison-Quintana on Saturday declined to comment to the Blade. Lopez and Naveed did not return requests for comment.

In its allegations against Corado, which it says are based on its own investigation since assuming the role as Casa Ruby receiver, the Wanda Alston Foundation complaint uses stronger language than that used in the D.C. attorney general’s complaint.

“Ms. Corado drained the organization’s accounts and unjustly enriched herself through multiple cash withdrawals, checks and money orders, wire transactions, online payment services and electronic funds transfers to herself and to other companies that she set up — embezzling over $800,000 from the organization,” the complaint states.

Superior Court Judge Danya A. Dayson, who is presiding over the Casa Ruby case, pointed out at the Jan. 6 court hearing that the Wanda Alston Foundation submitted a required court filing called a Motion for Leave asking for permission to file its own complaint against Corado, the Casa Ruby board members and the three individual companies that Corado created that are defendants in the attorney general’s complaint.

Dayson said the parties named in the Wanda Alston Foundation complaints have a right to file an objection to the Motion for Leave, and she set a deadline of Friday, Jan. 13, for filing such an objection. The judge then said if she approves the Motion for Leave by the Wanda Alston Foundation, the deadline for the parties, including Corado and the board members, to file a response to the Wanda Alston Foundation’s complaint against them will be March 6.

Dayson said the parties named in the attorney general’s complaint, which include Corado and companies she created, must also file their response to that complaint by March 6.

Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions and has insisted the Casa Ruby board approved her actions, including her decision to open a Casa Ruby operation in El Salvador.

In an interview last month in El Salvador, where she now lives, Corado told the Blade the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to “persecution.”

At the Jan. 6 status hearing, which was held virtually through the court’s online Webex system, Corado reiterated what she has said in previous court hearings — that the D.C. government was responsible for Casa Ruby’s closing in July 2022 by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars that Corado says the city owes Casa Ruby for services it provided under city grants. 

City officials have disputed those claims, saying the funds were withheld or discontinued because Casa Ruby did not provide the required documentation or reports showing that it performed the work associated with city grants.

Similar to an earlier court hearing in September, Corado at the Jan. 6 hearing told Dayson that she had yet to retain an attorney to represent her. Dayson told Corado that because she is named as a defendant in the attorney general’s complaint and in the complaint filed by the Wanda Alston Foundation, which is listed as a “cross complaint,” Corado or an attorney representing her must file a response to the complaints.

The judge also pointed out that Corado is listed as the registered agent for three limited liability companies that Corado created to reportedly help Casa Ruby provide services to its clients, including a Casa Ruby pharmacy. Both the attorney general’s complaint and the Wanda Alston Foundation compliant name the three LLC companies as defendants. The judge said Corado would be responsible for arranging for the three LLCs to file a response to the two complaints against them.

In its 12-page Receiver’s Third Interim Report filed in court on Dec. 16, the Wanda Alston Foundation said it conducted its own investigation into Casa Ruby’s operations using, among other things, detailed financial records it obtained from Ayala, Vado and Associates, an accounting firm that provided accounting services for Casa Ruby for over five years from at least 2016 to 2020. The documents it obtained, the report says, include multiple Casa Ruby bank records and records of cash withdrawals by Corado.

“Based on our review of the accounting firm’s records, Casa Ruby, Inc. did not collapse due to the loss of an $800,000 grant from the District of Columbia,” the report says. “In 2021, financial records show deposits from multiple revenue streams totaling $5,169,098 to M&T Tailored Business Checking Account,” the Wanda Alston Foundation report says, noting that a significant stream of income came from private donors.

“The organization failed because of multiple cash withdrawals and overseas transfers that Ms. Corado made to set herself up for a lavash retirement in El Salvador,” the report states. “She made no secret of her intentions — openly broadcasting them on social media,” it says. “When it was evident that there was no meaningful oversight by the board of directors, she finally dropped all pretenses and started openly looting the organization.”

Nick Harrison, an attorney representing the Wanda Alston Foundation in its role as the Casa Ruby receiver, told the Blade the Wanda Alston Foundation decided to file its own complaint as an extension of its mission of serving the needs of the LGBTQ community.

“In our capacity as receiver, the Wanda Alston Foundation has taken legal action in the form of a cross-party complaint and a third-party complaint to attempt to recover some of the financial losses of Casa Ruby,” Harrison said. He said the Wanda Alston Foundation complaint names Casa Ruby board members as defendants because the board “had a legal and ethical responsibility to protect the organization’s finances, the vulnerable clients they served, and the community members they employed.”

In her interview with the Blade from El Salvador in December, Corado said she believes she is being targeted because she always tells the truth and people are being distracted from the truth because of a system that benefits from “lies and defamation.”

During the Jan. 6 court hearing, Corado said she has received threats against her life since the D.C. attorney general first filed its complaint against her and the Wanda Alston Foundation released derogatory statements against her in the receiver’s reports.

“It really puts my life in danger,” she said.

Dayson scheduled the next court hearing for the Casa Ruby case on March 17.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

District of Columbia

Bowser’s highest-level adviser resigns after sexual harassment allegation

Female staffer accuses John Falcicchio of longstanding abuse

Published

on

John Falcicchio (Screen capture via WUSA9)

Lawyers representing a D.C. government employee shook up the city’s political establishment on Monday when they announced that the employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against John Falcicchio, the now former D.C. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s longtime chief of staff.

The attorneys, Debra Katz and Kayla Morin, did not identify the city employee. 

The announcement by Katz and Morin in a press release came shortly after Mayor Bowser issued her own announcement at a news conference on the same day. The mayor confirmed that Falcicchio’s sudden resignation last Friday, March 17, followed her decision to launch an investigation into allegations against Falcicchio.    

But Bowser said issues surrounding her longtime adviser’s departure amounted to “a sensitive matter that includes privacy concerns” that prevented her from disclosing why she initiated the investigation and why Falcicchio abruptly resigned. 

She said the investigation was being conducted by the city’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is “following established policies and procedures” and that all relevant D.C. government staff members were fully cooperating with the investigation.

“I can also tell you that this investigation does not involve any allegations of improprieties related to business transactions,” Bowser told reporters attending the news conference, which was initially called to celebrate the completion of the city’s 9th Street, N.W. protected bike lane project and to discuss updates on the Capital Bikeshare program.

“I have every confidence in my new chief of staff, Lindsey Parker, and in our new Interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Keith Anderson,” Bowser said at the news conference. “And I have immense confidence in the 37,000 employees of the D.C. government who will keep us moving forward,” she said.

Parker has served as the city’s chief technology officer since 2019 and as assistant city administrator since 2022. Anderson has served as director of the D.C. Department of General Services, which oversees the city’s buildings and properties.  

“We represent an employee of the District of Columbia who came forward to report serious allegations of sexual harassment by former Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio,” the statement released by attorneys Katz and Morin says.

“It is our understanding that this behavior is longstanding, and our client is cooperating fully with the investigation, which Mayor Bowser initiated immediately,” the statement continues. “Our client is courageous. She came forward to ensure accountability and protect other women,” it says. “Given the gravity of our client’s allegations – which involve unwelcome advances and sexual contact – we ask the media to respect her privacy,” the statement says.

It concludes by encouraging “everyone affected” to contact Maia Ellis, the Associate Director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel, who’s leading the investigation, at [email protected].

Katz is a founding partner and Morin is an associate of the D.C. law firm Katz Banks Kumin, which specializes in sexual harassment law, whistleblower law, and employment law, according to a write-up on its website.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’

Published

on

Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at www.CapitalPride.org.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

Casa Ruby board members deny responsibility for org’s collapse

Civil complaints filed against officials to be discussed at March 17 hearing

Published

on

Ruby Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

At least five of the eight former members of the Casa Ruby board of directors who are named in a civil complaint charging them with failing to adequately oversee the organization’s finances and practices by its former director Ruby Corado have filed court papers disputing the allegations against them.

Details of their response to a third-party civil complaint filed against them by the Wanda Alston Foundation in its role as the court-appointed receiver of the now-defunct Casa Ruby LGBTQ community services center were expected to surface at a March 17 D.C. Superior Court virtual hearing on the Casa Ruby case.

The Alston Foundation’s complaint was filed on Dec. 23, several months after the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed its own civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Ruby Corado. The Attorney General’s complaint, among other things, alleges that Corado and the organization violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings. An amended version of the original complaint charges that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador, where Corado currently lives.

The Alston Foundation complaint, which also names Corado as a defendant, identifies each of the eight former board members as defendants and “respectfully requests restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, receivership fees and expenses, court costs, attorneys fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.”

According to the complaint, each of the board members failed to exercise their legally required oversight of Casa Ruby’s operations and of practices by Corado that allegedly resulted in the financial collapse of Casa Ruby, forcing it to close its operations.

Miguel Rivera, one of the former board members who is an attorney, states in his response to the complaint that it “fails and/or may be barred, in whole or in part, because a bona fide fiduciary relationship did not exist between Third-Party Plaintiff [Alston Foundation on behalf of Casa Ruby] and Third-Party Defendant Miguel Rivera.”

Rivera’s response adds that the complaint should be dismissed on a wide range of grounds, including his assertion that he as a board member “has not engaged in (a) willful misconduct; (b) crimes; (c) transactions that resulted in improper personal benefits of money, property, or service; and (d) acts or omissions that are not in good faith and are beyond the scope of authority of the corporation.”

The responses filed by the former board members are not included in the current online D.C. Superior Court case docket for the Casa Ruby case. At the request of the Washington Blade, Douglas Buchanan, the court’s public information officer, provided the Blade with the responses by Rivera and former board members Meredith Zoltick and Carlos Gonzales.

Similar to Rivera’s response, the response filed by Zoltick and Gonzales also disputes the validity of the complaint and asks the judge to dismiss the case against them.

Nick Harrison, the attorney representing the Alston Foundation in its role as Casa Ruby Receiver, said he has learned that another two former Casa Ruby board members have filed some form of a response to the complaint against them.

In a separate motion filed in court on Jan. 21, Harrison states on behalf of the Alston Foundation that it has taken the legally required steps needed to properly serve each of the eight former board members with court papers informing them they have been named as defendants in the complaint. He said he expects Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson, who is presiding over the Casa Ruby case, to rule that the legally required efforts to serve each of the defendants have been met.

Court records show that Corado, who has appeared in previous virtual court hearings through a phone hookup, has yet to retain an attorney to represent her.

Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions and has insisted the Casa Ruby board approved her actions, including her decision to open a Casa Ruby operation in El Salvador. In a December interview with the Blade’s El Salvador correspondent, Corado said the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to “persecution.”

At a Jan. 6 court hearing held virtually, Corado reiterated her earlier claims that the D.C. government was responsible for Casa Ruby’s closing in July 2022 by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars that Corado says the city owed Casa Ruby for services it provided under city grants.

City officials have disputed those claims, saying the funds were withheld or discontinued because Casa Ruby did not provide the required documentation or reports showing that it performed the work associated with the city grants.

The March 17 court hearing is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast through the court’s Webex system.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular