Jamaica Biz Center sued

By Juan Soto

A Jamaica nonprofit with ties to state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) was sued by five former employees for not paying their wages for almost a year.

According to the complaint filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court, the Jamaica Business Resource Center “failed to pay monies owed” to the former workers totaling $250,000.

In 2010, the nonprofit received a $275,000 grant from state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D-Hollis) office. The elected official doled out a total of $1.8 million to nonprofits in Queens that year.

The workers at Jamaica Business Resource Center suing for unpaid wages held positions within the nonprofit as a senior business adviser, custodian, executive assistant, office manager and vice president for capital access.

The lawsuit charges that the workers got their last paycheck in August 2013 for the pay period of October 2012. In September 2013, the five employees were fired.

The complaint says that the former workers “are entitled to a full recovery of the money they are owed … as well as interest.”

While allegedly stiffing the workers of their paychecks, the lawsuit says, the nonprofit threw “elaborate galas for the defendants’ friends. These galas cost several hundred thousand dollars, but allowed the defendants to use the money they owed the employees to maintain their personal reputations with their community.”

Jamaica Business Resource Center became operational in 1995 through then-President Bill Clinton’s One Stop Capital Shop small business program.

According to the group, the nonprofit provided technical and financial assistance to more than 750 businesses. The nonprofit’s website says it “secured over $585 million in financing and procurement opportunities for small, minority and women-owned business.”

The nonprofit also said it provided “high level training to over 6,500 entrepreneurs in the fundamental business of management.”

One of the former employees was hired at the nonprofit as far back as 1997and the most recent in 2006.

For its 15th anniversary in June 2011, the organization hosted a “major New York celebration” at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Battery Park, according to a press release issued at the time. The event honored then City Comptroller John Liu, state Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Cheryl McKissack, whose engineering firm was involved with the Atlantic Yards project, in Brooklyn among others.

That same year the nonprofit’s president, Timothy Marshall, traveled to Zambia to address more than 30 delegates from around the world at a conference on sustainable economic development, the center said.

The office number for the organization was not in service this week.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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