Tensions have heightened since the World Jewish Congress and its former president, Edgar Bronfman, each filed lawsuits against the organization’s former top professional, Israel Singer.
The suits were filed Aug. 17 in the Supreme Court of New York County. One, filed by Bronfman, alleges that Singer did not pay back more than $500,000 in personal loans stemming from a 2004 investigation by the New York State Attorney General into the WJC’s finances.
As a result of that investigation, which found that Singer and others acted improperly, but not illegally, with WJC funds, Singer was required to pay back more than $300,000 to the organization. He remained employed by the WJC until earlier this year, when he was abruptly fired by Bronfman over alleged financial improprieties.
The alleged loans were intended to pay for legal expenses and for the $300,000 fine.
The other suit, filed by the WJC, claims that after Singer was fired, he never returned WJC property such as computers, televisions, cellular phones and blackberries, that amount to $19,500. In addition, the suit claims, Singer owed the WJC $7,805.80 for a flight for Singer and his wife. It also says that Singer owes the WJC 450,000 American Express credit card awards points that he accumulated on WJC business.
Singer, who steadfastly denied all the allegations, sent JTA an e-mail dismissing the filings.
“These suits would seem to be a foolish and angry parting shot from the recently ousted secretary general,” he said, speaking of Stephen Herbits, who pushed through the WJC suit. “They are nuisance suits and are completely without merit. It would seem that these lawsuits were only filed for publicity value, as a WJC representative had already given the story to the JTA seconds after I was served.”
Herbits said that he is pursuing the lawsuit to protect his own integrity.
“He doesn’t want to go to court. He wants to avoid a lawsuit,” Herbits said of Singer, “so attack the messenger.”
Despite a media report that current WJC president Ronald Lauder was unaware of the lawsuit, Herbits also said that Lauder knew that a lawsuit was in the works and that it was discussed at a July 19 meeting.
Lauder acknowledged that he knew of the suit, but said that he did not know of the timing and was not reached on the day it was filed.
He would not comment on whether the WJC would pursue the suits after Herbits steps down as secertary-general on Sept. 9.