PICO BOULEVARD — After a nearly yearlong legal battle, a $1.6 million gift from the Peggy Bergmann estate has been released to the Pico Youth & Family Center.
Amid internal strife over the mission of the organization and accusations of financial mismanagement, former PYFC board chair Amanda Seward attempted to return the check, which has been held by the Bergmann estate’s attorney, Sonya Sultan, since.
“We had a terrific legal team that was able to dispel all of the false allegations made against the PYFC and its staff,” said PYFC founder Oscar de la Torre. “Our victory in court is also more evidence that the city government is not being honest in the allegations it has made against PYFC and myself.”
PYFC is a nonprofit organization created to provide services for at-risk youth. In 2011, city officials investigated PYFC over duplicate payroll checks. de la Torre said these were financial errors and that PYFC owned the mistakes.
Earlier this year, de la Torre said he would step down as executive director after the City Council considered defunding the program.
“My working in the organization, it has nothing to do with this funding,” he said. “But it’s a decision that the board of directors gets to make. I don’t get to choose. It’s in the hands of the board of director. But, there is an opportunity for staff members to be funded without any city dollars.”
Ultimately, council redirected about one-third of PYFC funding to the Cradle to Career initiative.
PYFC will be able to access up to $165,000 per year for the next 10 years of the gift.
“It’s supposed to be set up as an endowment for the group,” said Bruce Sultan, a Bergmann estate attorney. “There are certain limitations on the amount of money they can take out and it has to be used solely for the benefit of at-risk [youth] and not for any other purpose.”
The Santa Barbara Foundation currently holds the funds and will disperse them over the next decade.
The annual allowance is not enough to solely cover PYFCs budget, de la Torre said.
“It provides a foundation for us to continue our path of relying less on public dollars,” he said. “We are probably the most recent youth serving nonprofit in the grantee menu. We’ve been around and funded by the city of Santa Monica since 2002 so it takes time for organizations to reach a level of independence that we all expect.”
The organization will host a fundraiser on Oct. 26 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Peace by Piece is a live hip hop show that will include art, freestyle battles and food vendors.