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October 05, 2015

N.Y. Charities Subpoenaed in Inquiry Into Foundation Spending

Charities headed by two politically prominent Long Islanders have been subpoenaed by New York State's attorney general in connection with an investigation of a charitable trust administrator's disbursement of donations, Newsday writes. The gifts were directed by Steve Schlesinger, a former lawyer for the Nassau County Democratic Party who was appointed by a judge in 2007 to manage the $11-million Kermit Gitenstein Foundation.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office launched the inquiry after Newsday reported in August that the foundation contributed $250,000 to a charity led by Gary Melius, a local power broker and owner of Oheka Castle, a historic coastal estate. Mr. Schlesinger sought court approval for the gift two days before he was married at the estate, a popular wedding venue.

The Gitenstein trust also gave $50,000 to Alfonse D'Amato's family foundation to build a children's splash park in the village where the former U.S. senator's late mother lived. Both Mr. D'Amato and Mr. Schlesinger are longtime friends of Mr. Melius, according to Newsday.

After the last Gitenstein sibling died without an heir, Mr. Schlesinger was appointed by Nassau County Surrogate's Court to operate the family trust in accordance with its mission of supporting Jewish organizations and health care. Under his management, the foundation gave money to well-known area Jewish charities and hospitals but also to groups and institutions with which he had ties, according to court records. He did not respond to Newsday's requests for comment.