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“PALIT ULO:” FILIPINO COMMUNITY “OCCUPIES” RIZAL CENTER!

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By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
  2017 Journal GlobaLinks

 

CHICAGO (JGL) – The search is on for a perfect manager, who had long eluded the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACC).

Tired of managing the Rizal Center housing the 64-year-old FACC at the north side of Chicago, Illinois, officers, board members and trustees took matters into their own hands Saturday (April 22) when they fired newcomer Elaine C. Lehman as their first volunteer Executive Director, who was hired early this year with nobody from them fielding probing questions about her capabilities and background beforehand.  

It turned out, Ms. Lehman was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, according to her critics, who had accused her of being "unFilipino" by arbitrarily without consent of the FACC Board for removing the mini-library dedicated to honor national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, the icon of Virgin Mary and the Meditation room and restricted entry of senior citizens during the harsh winter and deprived the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE) housed in the Rizal Center to extend sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

WOMAN OF THE HOUR! 

MS. ELAINE C. Lehman talks to a Chicago Police officer while Dr. Rufino Crisostomo (right) looks on after some 30 to 40 members of the Filipino community, including Trustees of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago, last Saturday, April 22, trooped in front of the Rizal Center at the north side of Chicago, Illinois, demanding her resignation. (JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)

 


Current and termed-out members of the board of directors and trustees of the FACC forced their way Saturday (April 22) inside their very own Rizal Center which they felt was slipping away from their hands.  

Their mass action conjured images of the EDSA People Power I & II in the Philippines or the Occupy movement against social inequality and lack of “real democracy” to advance social and economic justice and new forms of democracy. They forced Lehman out of the home of the FACC, the Rizal Community Center, but did not present the resolution personally to her.  

Please see the statement of the FACC sent to the media by Trustee Jerry B. Clarito. 

Without any clue, Ms. Lehman, who claims to be a native of Quezon City in the Philippines and whose parents are from Negros Province, with concurrence of FACC President Rufino Crisostomo, called the assistance of the Chicago Police, when the 30 to 40 members of a group of Filipino community showed up at the gates of the Rizal Center about 9 a.m. and requested that they wanted to get inside the locked doors of the Rizal Center and hold an emergency meeting in the auditorium of the Center until 12 noon.

“THEY MUGGED ME THERE!: 

FIRED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Elaine C. Lehman (second from right, top) points to a direction in this grainy still where she accused trustees of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago for lunging at her and grabbing her chest and shoving her shortly after the trustees decided to remove her as FACC Executive Director last Saturday, Apirl 22. To her left is a Chicago Police officer. (JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)


Surprised and overwhelmed, an assistant of Ms. Lehman, Roberto Gonzales, emailed this reporter at about 10:47 a.m., saying, “Elaine, said to contact you about an illegal meeting going on now till 12:00.” 

SHOULD THANK FACC MEMBERS OF THE BOARD 

This reporter emailed back, “Actually, you could have thanked them for coming to the Rizal Center and congratulated them for exercising their democratic rights and asked them if they can provide Elaine their written grievances so she can discuss the grievances with the FACC members of the board and let the board decide on their grievances.”

 REPORTING TO THE FIL AM COMMUNITY: 

FACC TRUSTEE and former FACC Vice President Mae Lant stepped outside the Rizal Center to report to the Filipino community that the trustees had decided to let Ms. Elaine C. Lehman go as Executive Director of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago. Looking on to her right is another FACC Trustee Jerry B. Clarito. (JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)


Since Ms. Lehman changed the keys to the lock of the Rizal Center after she was appointed Executive Director and she had since restricted entries of Filipino community members, the group of directors and trustees resolved to ask for a locksmith to change the keys and the lock during the emergency meeting.  

When responding policemen arrived, the officers asked the group crowding the door to clear the area to prevent it from turning it into a “fire hazard.”   

It is not yet confirmed if the same directors and trustees will remove Dr. Crisostomo from power, which calls for a two/thirds votes of board of directors. The list of officers submitted by Ms. Lehman to the office of the Charitable Trust Bureau of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and obtained by this reporter shows that it is undated and hastily hand-written and can be accessed here. A spokesman of the Charitable Bureau told this reporter that the list was submitted by Ms. Lehman on April 13, 2017. He said he would request for a more formal list, meaning a typewritten list.

 

Dr. Crisostomo, the FACC President, Mr. Caesar Yabut, the FACC Treasurer, and Mr. Alfredo Barranco, the Chair-Elect (Interim), could not be reached for comment whether they are supporting or rejecting the demands for Ms. Lehman's resignation. The votes of the three of them would be enough to settle the matter. A vote of the two of them would put the question on a deadlock or stalemate.

CALM DOWN!: 

FACC TRUSTEE Jerry B. Clarito appears to settle down an agitated Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago crowd outside the Rizal Center after the announcement that FACC Executive Director Elaine C. Lehman was fired by the board of trustees during an emergency meeting earlier in the auditorium of the Rizal Center Saturday, April 22. (JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)


While the directors and trustees succeeded in changing the lock and keys of the building, the police got the keys from the locksmith and the police turned over the keys to Dr. Crisostomo, who, in turn, returned the keys to Ms. Lehman.  

Ms. Lehman said, “In the heat of the moment, I noticed a locksmith, notified the police, and told the locksmith he was not allowed to change the lock. He asked how he was going to get paid, and then walked away. There was a crowd, and when I turned around, I saw the locksmith had a screwdriver and he looked at me and said, ‘It's changed.’ I called to the police and they got the keys. I had to go inside to speak to other police, and then a policeman came up to me and gave me the keys.”  

AFIRE DENOUNCES LEHMAN 

The Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), one of the occupants of the Rizal Center, the FACC and members of the community decided to call a press conference and issued a press statement at 9 a.m. Monday, April 24, to force the removal of Ms. Lehman, who says she has the support of majority members of the board composed of Dr. Crisostomo, Chair; Caesar Yabut, Treasurer; Alfredo Barranco, Chair-Elect (Interim) and Vice Chair – Corporate Secretary, which she is holding the interim position until it is filled; and an Immediate Past Chair (newly-created; to be filled by the chair (current) and will be filled up on the planned election on July 1, 2017.  

Mr. Mike Aguhar, a Filipino American lawyer and Executive Director of AFIRE, also issued the following statement here. 

A check by this reporter with the Charitable Trust Bureau of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan showed that the latest list of officers and directors filed by Ms. Lehman on April 13, 2017 is the valid list of officers. When asked why the list does not include both the names of directors and trustees, the spokesperson said, “It can only be either directors or trustees not both.”

CROWD: 

FACC TRUSTEE Jerry B. Clarito speaks before the Filipino American community, who waited for the decision of the FACC Trustees, who fired Elaine C. Lehman as Executive Director of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago last Saturday, April 22, outside the Rizal Center at 1332 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, Illinois. (JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)


Ms. Lehman said after submitting the list of officers and directors of the FACC Board “I think on April 18, 2017 of the reinstatement” of the non-profit, tax-exempt status of FACC “along with everyone else,” nobody had objected to the list. 

In the Form NFP 114.05 Domestic/Foreign Corporation Annual Report obtained by this reporter that was submitted by Dr. Crisostomo on April 7, 2016 to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a different set of officers was listed. It includes Dr. Crisostomo as President; Mila Bensing, Secretary; Jaime Alban, Treasurer; Thelma Bascos, Norberto Luna and Mae Lant, Directors. 

Another set of FACC officers submitted by FACC Auditor Severino Villanueva last August 24, 2016 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Form 990 is almost a match with the list submitted to the Secretary of State, except it added Severino Villanueva as Auditor but dropped Thelma Bascos, Norberto Luna and Mae Lant, all Directors, from the list.  

The spokesman at the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the lists of officers and directors and/or trustees that should be submitted in various agencies should match each other unless submitted in different dates.

SIGNATORIES TO THE REMOVAL RESOLUTION 

In the resolution removing Ms. Lehman last Saturday, the following were the signatories: Jerry Clarito, Dennis Cruz, Carmen Estacio, Jaime Alban, Thelma Bascos, Willie Buhay, Ved Diamante, Pastor Raul Fermin, Mae Lant, Norberto Luna, Juanita Uria, Rizalina P. Richmond, Cora Sopena and Malou Tago, all trustees.  

When asked to comment on the resolution, Ms. Lehman said, “The Board members not participating with Jerry Clarito, Carmen Estacio, and Dennis Cruz (whose term has exceeded the term limit in the past and current constitution/bylaws) are Dr. Crisostomo, Alfredo Barranco, and Caesar Yabut,” suggesting she still has the confidence of the majority members of the board as Mr. Clarito, Ms. Estacio and Mr. Cruz are not in the list as directors she submitted to the office of Attorney General Lisa Madigan. 

Ms. Lehman said those who attended the emergency meeting were former board members who had stopped attending meetings or who had resigned.  

Ms. Lehman also issued a press statement here. She also denied that she and her husband Ari Lehman had turned Rizal Center into their private residence. "We are living in the neighborhood of the Rizal Center," she clarified. 

When the directors and trustees emerged from the emergency meeting, Ms. Lehman complained that “I was walking toward the building and Thelma Bascos lunged forward and grabbed my chest. She was saying something, but I did not understand her. Her face was contorted.  This was sometime between 11am and 11:30 a.m. (Note: Audio and video footages taken by Ms. Flerizza Antonov captured partly the audio after Lehman was manhandled in the Youtube video below.) 

She said she also lost her mobile phone during the commotion.

PALIT-ULO (CHANGING OF THE GUARD?): 

DR. RUFINO CRISOSTOMO, President of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACC), stands in front of the recovered Rizal Bust as he prepares to have it restored to the pedestal shortly after the FACC Board decided to appoint Elaine C. Lehman as its new volunteer Executive Director of the FACC. (JGL Photo courtesy of Dr. Rufino Crisostomo)


“I'm not sure what was going on with Jerry (Clarito). I think I said something like I was unaware about the meeting. He didn't want me to talk, so he shoved me across my chest so that I had to step behind. That was before 9 a.m.," Ms. Lehman said. 

“The knuckle of my middle finger on my left hand is bruised, and I showed (it to) the police.   

“Roberto (Gonzales, her supporter) was my witness. I thought I was just going to prepare the building for work needed on Monday/Tuesday, and a short meeting about the caregiver course,” she said.  

Ms. Lehman said the Rizal Center was closed Saturday because of the fumigation of the building scheduled that day.

She said she went to the “police tonight and filed the report (complaint).” 

 WE WERE FORCED OUT OF THE RIZAL CENTER:  

ATTORNEY MIKE AGUHAR, Executive Director of Alliance of Filipinos For Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), denounced Ms. Elaine C. Lehman, Executive Director of the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago (FACC) for ejecting his staff and volunteers in their office in the Rizal Center although they were scheduled to have a workshop “with our friends at Interfaith Workers for Justice without sufficient advanced notice.’ Their continued ejection, Mr. Aguhar said, will deprive them from providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Mr. Aguhar made the denunciation last Saturday, April 22, when trustees and directors of FACC removed Ms. Lehman as their Executive Director. Ms. Lehman said she notified in advance AFIRE of the fumigation of the building scheduled that day. ((JGL Photograb with permission from Flerizza Antonov footages)


When asked to confirm if he was the one, who recommended Ms. Lehman to become Executive Director of the Rizal Center, Mr. Jerry Clarito refused to respond.  

Ms. Lehman appeared to gain a toehold in the FACC when she discovered that the FACC had been “refused registration or had its registration or tax-exemption suspended or revoked” for not filing the required financial papers of the organization in a timely manner. It was also around the time that Atty. Alfonso Bascos, the long time FACC president and registered agent of the FACC, was losing his grip on his FACC power while awaiting the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court, which later suspended him “for one year and until further order of the Court” for failing “to competently represent an elderly client who suffered from dementia when he prepared a power of attorney (in the Rizal Center) giving the client’s caregiver control over the client’s funds and making the caretaker and her family beneficiaries of the client’s will.”  

A former big fundraiser for the FACC, Ms. Ting Joven, former treasurer of NPC-Phil U.S.A, suggested that Ms. Lehman might have found Rizal Center's parking lot as a gold mine to collect parking donations from car drivers during Chicago Cubs' home games. Ms. Lehman had admitted to this reporter that she was indeed collecting parking fees but this reporter suggested that she should document her collection by issuing and retaining duplicate receipts, including the amount of donation, not fees, collected, dates, the names, addresses of the card drivers and the plate numbers that she would need to support her financial report when she submits Form 990 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or risk losing the FACC's tax-exempt status and have the FACC officers charged with tax evasion. This reporter also suggested that the building insurance of Rizal Center should also cover the damages in case cars parked in the Rizal Center's parking lot are vandalized if she does not hire someone to  watch over the parking lot during the Cubs games. She should advertise the search for watcher, who should be vetted by the FACC Board. 

Community organizer Marlon L. Pecson said the combative treatment by the directors and trustees of the FACC to Ms. Lehman “was unnecessary. First, she is by herself. And second, with the rowdy group manhandling her, Ms. Lehman got the sympathy of the police. Complaining of discrimination against the police is out place. If you are in the right place, like the directors and trustees, you have to be magnanimous. A crowd cussing and heckling a petite woman are overkill. As (President) Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.”  

Mr. Pecson added, “Daanin lang natin sa patayo, kung hindi natin magawa sa paupo.” (Filipinos should only take matters into their own hands by standing up when they could resolve them sitting down.) (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) 

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