Wednesday, November 16 2011, 8:22 PM
A nonprofit controlled by Bronx City Councilman Larry Seabrook used $7,200 in City Council discretionary “slush” funds to buy a book self-published by his sister, a jury was told Wednesday.
Witness Philesha Jude said the 600 copies of the book “If These Chains Could Talk” were supposed to be given out at a 2006 education summit but not all were.
She said copies of Betty Seabrook Burney’s tome were then kept in the reception area of the nonprofit for visitors to take but by the time she left in 2008 one or two boxes of books were still left.
Burney is a Florida educator and the book is based on interviews with jailed teenage inmates.
Jude told the Manhattan Federal Court jury that Burney’s book was the only one the nonprofit ever bought in bulk.
Jude, 29, was a bookkeeper for the nonprofit, the African-American Legal & Civic Hall of Fame and another Seabrook-run entity, the Northeast Bronx Redevelopment Corp. for three years.
She was called to the stand by prosecutors who accuse Seabrook of steering $1.2 million to those two organizations, as well as two other nonprofits that Seabrook controlled to enrich himself, his girlfriend, family and friends.
Jude testified that the girlfriend, Seabrook’s sisters and brother, his nephews and his granddaughter were paid $612,000 in consulting fees and salaries during her time there.
One consultancy paid Seabrook sister Priscilla Jenkins $3,775 for a month’s work evaluating one of the nonprofit’s city contracts, she said.
Another paid Oliver Seabrook, the councilman’s brother, $61,000 to be a lecturer.
Jude said Seabrook’s granddaughter was hired as a $50-an-hour consultant to “assist with seminars and workshops.” The granddaughter was paid $750.
Asked by prosecutor Steve Lee how old the granddaughter was at the time, Jude replied, “Fifteen or 16.”
Jude also said Seabrook prepared the budgets the nonprofits submitted to the city to obtain the discretionary grants Seabrook had allocated.