The following is my letter to the New York Post in response to my friend Walter’s sentencing. It’s too difficult to get a letter in the Times. But, mark my words, the Times will ultimately end up covering this story.
To the editor:
Well they’ve done it. The members of the Alpha Chapter of St. Anthony Hall at Columbia University have dishonored their vows of brotherhood and sent a blameless old man to prison.
My friend Walter Perry was convicted of stealing $650,000 from the fraternity, when in fact he bailed out the organization on several occasions — with tens of thousands of dollars of his own money — when they faced insolvency due to profligate spending by the undergraduates, who hold all the executive power in the organization. They’re used to being bailed out by the alumni with no strings attached. It suits their lifestyle.
The numbers are all enormous, of course, because we’re talking about what amounts to a very expensive apartment building on Riverside Drive. The nominal treasurer lived in California and attended one or two meeetings a year. Walter was essentially running the organization. Bills came due for staff payroll, utilities, and so forth, before dues and fees were received, and Walter paid them out of his own pocket.
Then all the minutes and financial records of the organization disappeared, except for those that were necessary to convict Walter of theft. There’s a whiff of malice here, and it’s clear Walter made somebody very angry. Knowing him as I do, much as I love him, I can see how that might happen. He’s very stubborn and not bashful about standing up for what he thinks is right. He removed some undergraduate officers after an incidence of illegal hazing, and that could be the source of the malice.
We’re not talking about a few mysterious documents here. We’re talking about all the minutes and financial records –totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars — over a period of at least six years.
Walter’s argument is that the money was never there to steal in the first place, and a full audit of the fraternity would, I believe, bear him out, especially in light of the prosecution’s preposterous charges. The judge graciously allowed an audit, but — in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland justice — only after Walter was convicted. And Walter and his sons had to bear the cost themselves. Is that justice?
How, I have to ask, can you steal, in a single year, $160,000 from an organization with total revenues of $360,000 and still pay all the bills? Walter worked with a guy named Boly, the fraternity’s previous sugar daddy, and when they bailed the undergraduates out the last time, they drew up some documents relating to the loans they made. The ‘Boly File’ has conveniently disappeared, and if it were to appear again, it would entirely exonerate my friend Walter. Sadly Boly is no longer with us.
I believe Walter’s appeal will be successful, and I’m going to urge him to file a countersuit against the fraternity. You’re all invited to sip champagne with us when he takes over his new digs on Riverside Drive.
499 Hadley Road