A lawsuit by the Westchester Children’s Association demanding $500,000 from the Lanza Family Foundation has been dismissed.
Former foundation leader, the noted philanthropist Patricia Lanza, had proposed a $500,000 matching challenge grant with the children’s association in 2013. When she died in 2014, the association was in the midst of matching the pledge and eventually reached the goal of $500,000.
Despite the agreement with Patricia Lanza, WCA failed to establish that the foundation or her estate was on the hook for the grant, Westchester Supreme Court Justice Lewis J. Lubell ruled on March 22, in granting a motion to dismiss the complaint.
WCA has not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, attorney Robert Corke said.
Patricia and Frank Lanza started the foundation in 1996 and it has given away millions of dollars to organizations around the world. In recent years it has focused on Westchester County, particularly organizations that support children, women and religious causes.
After Frank Lanza died in 2006, Patricia Lanza poured money into the foundation. She also gave away or pledged millions of dollars personally, often, according to recipients, with a handshake and no formal agreement.
The foundation is now directed by her sons, Anthony, Louis and James. It has curtailed donations under their leadership, Louis said in an interview last year, while they sort out “an accounting nightmare.”
The children’s association claimed in its lawsuit that it had met the conditions of the 2013 gift agreement but Louis refused to honor the deal. The agreement required the association to raise $500,000 by the end of 2014, for instance, and maintain its federal tax-exempt status.
But the deal was signed by Patricia Lanza individually, Lubell ruled, and there are no references to the Lanza Family Foundation. The agreement also states that it is not binding on Patricia Lanza’s estate.
The documentary evidence, the judge said, utterly refutes the children’s association’s allegations.
The foundation has stopped supporting several local charities; and several organizations that had received personal checks from Patricia Lanza no longer benefit from her generosity.
In her last year or so, Louis Lanza said recently, his mother had realized that some organizations had not produced the expected results and people had taken advantage of her.
“We’re cutting some of those folks off,” he said. “They’re not the real deal.”