Posted on October 12, 2011

Rev. Flake ‘Looting’ Lesson

Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein, New York Post, October 9, 2011

New York political kingmaker and religious leader Floyd Flake rakes in the cash–and leaves wreckage behind, critics say.

For five years, the former congressman headed one of the largest churches in the country in Queens while simultaneously running a small college in Ohio–pocketing hundreds of thousands in salary and benefits from both places.

Now Wilberforce University faculty members say he bled them dry, setting the storied black Protestant college on the road to financial ruin.

“He came in and looted the place,” said Robert Fitrakis, a lawyer for the faculty who filed a complaint last month with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.


The faculty members claim that after Flake became president in 2002, his compensation and perks skyrocketed, he hired cronies as high-priced administrators, he failed to raise enough money and he insisted on a pricey contract with the Princeton Review, where he sat on an advisory board.

In his last year at the college, 2008, Flake pulled down a total compensation package of $340,100, which included his salary of $145,833 and a retirement benefit of $149,267. He also had a $45,000 expense account.

Almost all of Wilberforce’s revenue, about 90 percent, comes from taxpayer dollars, including federal financial aid and government grants.

And Flake earned the outsize salary while working at the college only one day a week, said a faculty member.

“He would fly out on Monday morning, get here in the afternoon, leave sometime on Tuesday morning,” said Richard Deering, a professor who has been at the 600-student college since 1968.


Flake tooled around the campus in a new $54,000 Cadillac Escalade. {snip}


Although the college did provide an expense account, Flake claimed in a 2007 interview that he and his church, the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, paid for his trips to Ohio.

The controversy is just the latest swirling around Flake, who served in Congress from 1987 to 1997. {snip}

Flake, a Democrat, was indicted on tax-evasion and embezzlement charges two decades ago–charges that were eventually dropped.

In addition, two of his political protégés, state Sen. Malcolm Smith and Rep. Gregory Meeks, who succeeded him in Congress, are under federal investigation for their roles in forming a Queens charity.

Flake, the son of a janitor who grew up in a Houston housing project, made important inroads on the New York political scene when he took over the pulpit of Greater Allen in Jamaica in 1976.

The church’s congregation now numbers some 23,000. It runs a school and develops affordable housing. Flake’s endorsements are highly sought after by politicians.


He left Queens in 2001, moving to a sprawling $3 million, five-bedroom mansion in the tony village of Old Westbury on Long Island. He drives a 2011 Mercedes Benz valued at $96,000.

In order to maintain his lifestyle, the church paid him a housing allowance in 2008 and 2009 totaling $460,400, according to tax records. He was also pulling down $217,725 in salary from the church in 2010, plus another $12,994 from the Empowerment Development Group, the Aqueduct racino company. And he got $37,750 more from Empowerment Ministries, a nonprofit he and his wife run out of their home.

The charity–with a mission to “spread the word of Jesus Christ”–also paid his wife, Margaret Elaine Flake, $37,750 in 2010. And she took in $228,455 from Greater Allen Cathedral, where she is co-pastor.


Flake insisted on using high-school courses from the Princeton Review for students who needed remedial lessons.

Not only were the classes inappropriate for college students, but faculty members also accuse Flake of self-dealing since he sat on a Princeton Review advisory board at the time, according to the faculty complaint.

The university spent $1,180,998 on the Princeton Review over six years, according to the complaint, which says federal money paid for the classes.

A spokesman for the Princeton Review confirmed Flake served on its advisory board from about 2001 to 2009 and was compensated with stock options.

In the spring of 2003, Flake declared a state of financial emergency and said he wanted to slash the number of majors offered at the college by two-thirds. Faculty members agreed to a 10-percent cut in their salaries or their retirement contribution.

Two years later, he was giving his pals huge raises.


Flake did not bring in any big private donations but did manage to get pal Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak at the 2007 commencement.

Total enrollment at Wilberforce dropped from 1,190 in the fall of 2002 to 591 this fall, below the number needed to break even, faculty say.

The complaint charges that the college will be “totally insolvent” in about 2 1/2 years.