View Full Version : Manhattan-UES What exactly is going on at Trinity and its trustees?

04-12-2011, 08:08 AM
I've been hearing through the grapevine about Trinity and issues with its trustees but still can't find out just what is going on. Can somebody fill me in on the supposed scandal?

04-13-2011, 08:17 AM
Seema Kalia is the mom battling Trinity. Supposedly, she questioned the credentials of the school psychologist and the school expelled her daughter in retaliation. In response, she did some investigations on her own into the school which revealed inappropriate benefits for the trustees and the lack of a diversity officer to maintain their non-profit status. She also said the IRS is doing its own investigation into the school.

If you're really interested, you can read more about her side of the story on her Facebook Notes page:


04-14-2011, 07:47 AM
To save people a trip to FB, this is what she wrote on her Notes page.

How we stumbled upon Trustee fraud at Trinity School prior to the IRS criminal investigation launched last week
by Seema Kalia on Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 3:12pm

My daughter was expelled from Trinity School in retaliation for trying to privately inquire about a key employee with false credentials. We spent the next year facing down slander and illegal threats as more and more information was leaked to us about the Trustees' massive cover ups regarding the school cutting costs in many years to finance a massive and illegal compensation scheme taken from non-Trustee parents.

On March 27th we were notified by the IRS that the Trustees at Trinity School are being investigated for fraud and other financial improprieties. This is an investigation NOT a mere audit. Most IRS investigations result in convictions because their software base can uncover all bank records of all individuals under the Bank Secrets Act.

We were basing our original legal complaint for a tuition refund on retaliation, because the threats started coming when I inquired about the psychologist having false credentials.

The School is also required to have a diversity officer to preserve non profit status under a 990 filing. So GET THIS: While going through the school's financial information (they didn't file tax returns for 2009 and 2010) our lawyers noticed:

- 10 of 13 Trustees resigned abruptly in summer 2008, just after the previous head of school, Hank Moses, died of cancer.

-2 of the 3 executive committee members remained (Moses was dead) and they promptly voted in a compensation scheme for the Trustees (not allowed for a non-profit).

After the 10 Trustees left in protest (BIG names -- Vikram Pandit, Ziff, Pitt, all financiers and a lawyer) the executive committee quickly appointed ten new trustees.

There is probably further compensation at the executive committee and voting trustee level, but nothing is disclosed in the filings which are missing a lot of legally required information. Almost all the new Trustees have multiple children, many with kids struggling academically at the school, but limited professional experience it seems to contribute to such a high profile non-profit board. This whole time they had not hired a new head of school who would have the third seat on the executive committee. They are all on the take for about 50-60 free tuitions and about half of the non-voting Trustees also resigned (the other half were mostly absentee elderly alum and wealthy benefactors with no active role.)

They hire a new head of school, but by this time the compensation scheme has already taken hold. A few new trustees have resigned once they had knowledge of the illegal compensation scheme.

Since 2007, the overall endowment for school has dropped from $105M to $70M in 2010, with contributions dropping by half in 2009. However the school maintains a consistent $40M in operating costs/income in the previous three tax filings.

Among the fraudulent filings are; the presence of a diversity officer - which it turns out was one of the expense items eliminated in 2008 to absorb short fall. Also missing: the real psychologist along with other high-paid faculty. They re-classified the fake psychologist after my complaint, as a "teacher" for their own legal protection, but still kept denying this to me and threatening to expel our child from the school if we discussed the issue with ANYONE (even privately) They hired a much less experienced diversity officer in late 2010 this year after my complaint.

Anyway, the upshot is this:

My lawyer reported the erroneous filings to the IRS a couple of weeks. Almost 5 minutes later I got a letter from the IRS saying they are investigating the school. If the school loses it's tax exempt status it will be financially ruined, but the Trustees have instead hired an $800/hr white collar criminal defense lawyer - also at school expense and using the school as a shield for their own legal protection. I guess they're hoping they can beat the rap if they wait long enough. The IRS closed four other private schools last year as part of a clamp down on non-compliant non-profits for far less serious infractions.

Now the school budget is also paying for a white collar defense lawyer appointed by the NYSAIS which threatened the school's private school accreditation if they didn't (they also fired the lawyer when they were cutting staff.) The NYSAIS also brought in a specialist in reforming "broken" non-profit boards.

Can you believe it? Last week a local politician intervened on our behalf and she said Lola would be re-admitted at Trinity if I took a "private meeting" with the trustees. Not wanting to be complicit in a cover-up we declined and are pulling her out at the end of the year, if the Trustees don't expel her sooner which they threatened to do last Thursday after being notified of the IRS investigation.

The Monday after the IRS investigation was launches the most senior non-trustee employees, the associate head of school resigned abruptly after only eight months on the job. The head of the IT department also resigned after several documents relating to credentials, Trustee responsibilities and professional affiliations were deleted from the school website.

Both kids have offers from other private schools that have been attempting to intervene to no avail and we have secured other better options for our family. The two executive committee members who brought in the scheme are Tory Kiam and Andrew Brownstein -- a partner at Wachtell - which apparently doesn't know about Sarbanes Oxley.

04-15-2011, 01:17 PM
The Daily Beast has an article from Nick Anderson about the saga...


Some pieces of the article:

Last year Kalia, a law school graduate and former TV host who has also written for The Huffington Post, feuded with a school staffer, telling Trinity that she thought the woman’s credentials were phony. Trinity, as powerful prep schools often do when challenged, came down hard. The headmaster told Kalia and her husband, fund manager Vedula Murti, to stop talking about the subject in the small Trinity world—or else their daughter would be in danger of expulsion.

“If you are unwilling to meet with us,” wrote headmaster John Allman in an Oct. 13, 2010, email, “I cannot see how the school can continue its relationship with your family.” Trinity believed that Kalia agreed to drop the matter. Just to make sure, though, Allman underlined the school’s warning again the next day by email: keep up the smears, and your second grader is out.

In December Trinity chose not to offer a kindergarten spot to the family’s young son—and things got nasty from there. The parents furiously protested. Kalia says that school officials dissed her at faculty meetings, and waged a “horrible kind of hate campaign” against her. The school says that in January, Kalia, who is of Indian descent, wrote emails to fellow parents accusing the school staffer of “racism and incompetence”; claiming that the family was withholding a large financial gift until the woman’s firing; and describing Trinity’s board as “overt bully unintelligent racists.”

Despite the rancor, Kalia’s daughter remains enrolled at Trinity. The school has avoided speaking about the situation until now, but agreed to talk to The Daily Beast.

“All the allegations that I’ve seen are utterly baseless, and absolutely false,” says Trinity’s spokesman, Kevin Ramsey. Told that Kalia had repeatedly questioned on Twitter why Trinity had not denied that it was the subject of an IRS investigation, Ramsey laughed. “I’ll deny it right now,” he said. “We have received no letter. There’s no investigation, there’s no audit, there’s been absolutely no communication from the IRS regarding Trinity School.”

Some who work in the New York private school scene think Trinity has waited too long to speak. “Parents in general go on ‘all rumor is based on truth.’ So if somebody’s talking this much about it, there’s gotta be some truth to it, and people want to listen,” says Dana Haddad, an educational consultant who helps students get into schools like Trinity, and who has been following the fracas. “Every school, if they’re not stupid, should be worried about social media. They [Trinity] have been going on ‘Let’s not respond,’ but I don’t know how well that’s working.”

“The most normal people can absolutely go insane when it comes to their child’s education,” says Suzanne Rheault, the founder of Aristotle Circle, an educational consultancy in New York. “For this woman it’s gone to a whole ’nother degree.”