New York OKs Covenant House Reorganization

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The state attorney general on Wednesday concluded an investigation of Covenant House by approving organizational changes that he said would restore public confidence in the troubled shelter for teen-agers.

Atty. Gen. Robert Abrams formally approved previously agreed on changes in auditing methods, hiring practices, the board of directors’ responsibilities and procedures for awarding contracts.

“By operating in a proper and prudent manner, under the terms of this agreement, Covenant House will go a long way toward restoring the public’s confidence in this refuge for troubled young people,” Abrams said in a statement.

The shelter serves more than 28,000 homeless teen-agers and runaways each year in 19 locations in the United States, Canada and Central America. Donations have dropped by $20 million--nearly 25%--in the last year.


Abrams announced also a separate agreement with Father Bruce Ritter, the shelter’s founder and former president who resigned last March amid allegations, which he denied, that he had sex with young men who sought help.

The agreement bars Ritter for life from serving as trustee of any charitable trust and requires him to pay interest on an interest-free loan he received from Covenant House in violation of state charity laws.

Abrams also barred Ritter from receiving severance pay.

Last year, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau dropped a criminal investigation into Ritter’s operation of Covenant House, saying there were questionable financial transactions but nothing sufficient to warrant charges.