Westchester nonprofit whistleblower files suit after being fired

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A former nonprofit employee says he was fired after outing some of his superiors for allegedly redirecting funds that were supposed to help families in need in the Hudson Valley.

After five years on the job, Tarek Abdelaziz was terminated last month from his position as the chief financial officer at the Westchester Community Opportunity Program, or WestCOP, located in Elmsford.

On Wednesday, he filed a lawsuit against the nonprofit, claiming it grossly misused thousands of government dollars to benefit leaders in the company and balance the books.

"He did everything he could to provide assistance to people who needed it the most," says Michael Willemin, Abdelaziz's attorney. "When he recognized that that wasn't what was actually happening at WestCOP and raised his hand, he was terminated."

Willemin says, according to his client, WestCOP managers used vehicles for personal use and regularly clocked hours they never worked.

"I noticed that there was a chronic abuse of time," Abdelaziz says.

Abdelaziz also alleges that WestCOP misused more than $40,000 from a grant for its Head Start program, which provides educational child care for low-income families in the Hudson Valley. That money, he says, was used to pay for other costs to avoid reporting a deficit.

"I felt that the whole agency had absolutely a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard this money," says Abdelaziz.

WestCOP's CEO confirms Abdelaziz was terminated and says he is disappointed to learn of the lawsuit, on which he had no comment.

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