By Gwendolyn Craig
The New York City Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club plans to resolve litigation and disassociate from the parent Adirondack Mountain Club and pay a settlement of $50,000.
The NYC chapter sued ADK last summer after ADK voted to dissolve it. ADK expressed concerns about the exclusivity of a downstate retreat the chapter operates called Camp Nawakwa. Michael Barrett, executive director of ADK, alleged the chapter was circumventing tax laws and failing to report income.
In a Jan. 14 letter, NYC Chapter Secretary Eve Mancuso wrote that her board felt it was “in the best interests of our organization and members to settle our legal dispute with ADK and disassociate.”
ADK plans to create a new city chapter, Mancuso notified members last month.
Mancuso said “ADK demanded a donation” in negotiations. The NYC Chapter board authorized a $50,000 “fund donation” in a resolution dated Jan. 17. It is not clear how the resolution was passed on Jan. 17 and Mancuso’s letter was written on Jan. 14.
Mancuso and the chapter’s attorney Judith Bachman did not immediately respond to the Adirondack Explorer’s request for comment. On Jan. 3, Bachman wrote to Judge Sherri Eisenpress of Rockland County Supreme Court to say “the parties have reached a settlement in principle.” She requested an adjournment.
Ben Brosseau, communications director for ADK, said a settlement has not been finalized yet and had no further comment.
If the settlement is completed, the organization will continue to operate as Nawakwa Outdoor Association of New York, Mancuso wrote. Chapter members will vote on the name at a Feb. 24 meeting. The chapter plans to keep operating Camp Nawakwa, a retreat on Lake Sebago in Harriman State Park that the organization leases from the Palisades Park Commission.
ADK President Tom Andrews had told the Explorer that some members of the NYC chapter alleged “exclusion, member disenfranchisement, and financial concerns.” In court records, Barrett noted Camp Nawakwa was restricted to about 200 of the chapter’s 1,200 members. The majority of the chapter’s finances went to the camp.
A past city chapter member reported to ADK that the chapter’s board “took actions and made policy to ensure that families with children would not feel welcome,” according to court records.
The chapter’s bylaws indicate one must become a “Nawakwan,” to use the camp. Nawakwans pay an application fee, complete an orientation and safety course and submit dues. They also must be voted in by the board of directors. The camp has one main two-bedroom cabin with a dining hall and two bathrooms. There are six separate sleeping cabins, three tent platforms and areas to swim and launch a boat.
Responding in court documents, Bachman called the allegation of exclusion of members “untrue as the qualification requirements for access to our camp have been in place, in one form or another, since 1931.”
Court records also show that in January 2021, ADK’s member services center received a $2,000 donation to be a “pass through” donation to the NYC chapter. Barrett said there appeared to be a relationship where such donations could be received by ADK so the donor could receive a tax deduction. Bachman disclosed that ADK had facilitated this process for many years, records show.
Bachman said ADK’s move to dissolve the chapter “was done with an ulterior motive; perhaps to seize NY ADK’s funds for Defendant’s own use, perhaps out of jealousy being that NY ADK has generous support from NY ADK’s own members, perhaps because Defendant is bothered that NY ADK is one of only two separately incorporated chapters, or perhaps as part of a larger plan to eliminate all chapters.”
At the end of June, ADK held a hearing and decided to dissolve the NYC chapter. On July 1, Mancuso and others filed the lawsuit. ADK has 27 chapters and the NYC and Keene chapters are the only ones separately incorporated.
A state Supreme Court justice in Rockland County issued a temporary restraining order on ADK’s decision in July. Since then, ADK made an unsuccessful motion to change the lawsuit’s venue to Warren County.