NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle Board of Education President Lianne Merchant appears to have made a material false statement in her 2014 Disclosure Form filed with the District's external auditors in July, the first month of her board presidency. The form was obtained under a Freedom of Information request.
In a filing signed by Lianne Merchant, dated July 19, 2014, Merchant answered "no" when asked on the form "Have you or any related party of yours been indebted to the School District at any time since July 1, 2013?"
Talk of the Sound previously reported that Westchester Friends Management Group, LLC currently owes $35,754.76 in unpaid property taxes which includes $25,162.91 in school taxes on a property it acquired in 2012. 12 Memorial Highway, home to Alvin & Friends restaurant has never paid its schools taxes since it was acquired by Westchester Friends in 2012.
Westchester Friends Management Group, LLC is a real estate investment vehicle funded in large party by Greg and Lianne Merchant, sources familiar with the transaction tell Talk of the Sound.
The Disclosure Form is a standard part of the annual audit process, conducted by O'Connor Davies, a leading government auditor in Westchester County. O'Connor Davies asks respondents to exclude amounts due for real estate taxes on a principal residence, for services normally provided to residents of the School District, and ordinary travel expenses and advances.
The auditing firm defines "related party" as a party that "has the ability to significantly influence the management or operating policies of the other, to the extent that one of the transacting parties might be prevented from fully pursuing its own separate interest" and this definition applies to "School District management, and members of their immediate families; and any other party with which the School District may deal with.
This would apply to Lianne Merchant, Greg Merchant and any entity which they have the ability to significantly influence such as an corporate entity like an LLC.
Management is defined as "any person(s) having responsibility for achieving the objectives of the organization and the concomitant authority to establish the policies and make the decisions by which such objectives arc to be pursued" and would normally include "Members of the Board, the Superintendent, School District Clerk, Department Heads, etc. and any other individual person who performs similar policy making functions."
This would apply to Greg Merchant through his wife, Lianne Merchant.
Gregory A. Merchant, currently on the board of the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence, became the subject of controversy when he was linked to a scheme to pass off phony petitions as support for the doomed Forest City Echo Bay Development while a member of the New Rochelle Industrial Agency. Merchant was not approved for a second term on the IDA after the incident came to light. His wife, Lianne Merchant, was the subject of controversy when she was found to have used her position on the school board to retaliate against a community group that opposed the same Forest City Echo Bay Development projected championed by her husband.
Talk of the Sound has filed a follow up Freedom of Information request for all Disclosure Form by all members of the New Rochelle Board of Education from the beginning of time to the present day.