ELECTIONS / STATE ASSEMBLY : Ramsay Says Conroy Has Mismanaged Charity Funds
Democratic Assembly candidate Greg Ramsay charged Thursday that his Republican opponent, Mickey Conroy, has mismanaged the finances of a Santa Ana-based veterans charity.
In response, Conroy released financial documents for the Disabled American Veterans Charities of Orange County to prove that in his six years as executive director, he has brought the group back from near bankruptcy while helping dozens of handicapped veterans find jobs.
Conroy and Ramsay, both from Santa Ana, will go head to head in in a special runoff election Sept. 17 to fill the state Assembly seat vacated by John R. Lewis (R-Orange), who was elected last May to the state Senate.
Thursday’s events were the first sign of real activity in the race since Conroy won a hard-fought Republican primary in July, triggering the runoff against Ramsay, 33. Conroy, a 63-year-old former fighter pilot, has been a strong favorite to win the seat because it represents the second-highest number of registered Republicans in an Assembly district in the state.
In a press conference outside of Conroy’s Santa Ana office Thursday, Ramsay pointed to a lawsuit filed last year by the national offices of the Disabled American Veterans which charged that Conroy did not file proper financial records for money he raised while using the group’s name.
The suit was settled earlier this year when Conroy and the local charity’s board of directors agreed to change the name of their group to Veterans Charities of Orange County.
Ramsay and officials from his campaign demanded that Conroy produce the disputed financial records. “It is important that we know which veterans benefit from this charity,” he said.
Pete Maddox, Ramsay’s campaign manager, charged: “I think when you look at what Conroy is doing to veterans, you will find he’s not doing much for them.”
At the charity’s headquarters Thursday, Conroy pointed to a room full of handicapped veterans preparing mailers under a contract with a local company. He also produced finance records for the charity indicating that it operated in the red for the past several years and has recently shown signs of improvement.
The financial records show that Conroy’s organization makes most of its money from operating a thrift store and it had provided money to the Disabled American Veterans organization in exchange for use of its name in collecting donations of used household items.
Conroy blamed the lawsuit on a dispute he has had with leaders of the national Disabled American Veterans charity. He said Veterans Charities of Orange County is a separate entity and he charged that leaders of the national organization were trying to conduct an unfriendly takeover.
Conroy also said he has been providing financial records for the charity to the California offices of the Disabled American Veterans, but not to the national office, which filed the suit.
Ken Musselman, head of the California DAV office, acknowledged Thursday that Conroy has been providing financial records to the state offices, although he said they were incomplete.
Musselman also said Conroy has been at odds with DAV for years, dating back to Conroy’s call for Democrat Tom Hayden’s removal from the state Assembly because of his protest activities during the Vietnam War. Musselman said Conroy tried to get DAV to join the anti-Hayden effort, but it refused.
“His statements that there are people in the DAV who don’t like him are true,” Musselman said. “It’s also true (that) there are a lot of people in the DAV he doesn’t like.”