|William J. Aramony|
|Born||July 27, 1927
Jewett City, Connecticut
|Alma mater||Boston College Graduate School of Social Work|
|Employer||United Way of America|
|Known for||convicted of 25 counts of fraud, served 6 years in Federal Prison|
William Aramony was CEO of United Way of America for more than twenty years and helped build the organization into one of the top four non-profits in the United States. He resigned in 1992 amid allegations of financial mismanagement and criminal activity, for which he was convicted and sentenced to prison.
William J. Aramony was born July 27, 1927 in Jewett City, Connecticut. His parents immigrated to the United States from Lebanon, and he was the youngest of their four children. He grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, attended Clark College from 1946-1949 and matriculated at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, earning a Master's degree in 1951. Aramony was married and his son, Robert, president of Sales Service/America Inc., a for-profit subsidiary of UWA, was born in 1958.
Aramony worked at local UW affiliates beginning in 1958 before coming to the United Way National Capitol Area in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s. He advanced to CEO of the national governing body, the United Community Funds and Council of America (UCFCA) in 1970 and began an organizational makeover. The organization was renamed, United Way of America (UWA), and moved from New York City to Alexandria, Virginia in 1971. A common stated purpose and standard name (United Way of ...) was established for local affiliates.
Next, he formed a partnership with the National Football League in 1973, whereby "players and coaches made public service announcements about their involvement with United Way chapters" which were broadcast during NFL games at no charge. "[T]hese associations brought widespread attention" to the United Way and in 1975, helped push donations above $1 billion for the first time.
Aramony helped develop a core strategy, which emphasizes an annual community-wide campaign in the Fall. United Way provides assistance to Employers, who provide a payroll deduction option to encourage workers to contribute to United Way. Agencies that receive United Way funding agree not to solicit donations during the UW campaign.
He also created the minority roundtable and helped develop numerous United Way leaders. That may not be a positive attribute; Ralph Dickerson Jr., at United Way of New York City; Oral Suer and Norman O. Taylor from United Way of the National Capital Area all had problems distinguishing between personal and United Way assets.
In 1990, there were UWA office rumors about Aramony's liaisons with a teenage girlfriend on vacations in Paris, London and Cairo. An anonymous note on UWA letterhead was sent in late 1990 to UWA's chairman, Edward A. Brennan, who is the chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company. The letter warned that the charity was being looted by its president, who was romancing a young woman.
When Aramony was questioned about the allegations, he denied any wrongdoing. In late 1991, a source at the national office revealed that Aramony flew first class, sometimes on the Concorde, used chauffeur-driven limosines and lavished expensive gifts on friends. After receiving multiple requests for information from the media, the United Way of America's board of governors hired outside investigators in December, 1991. The auditors were instructed to review the books and examine accounting procedures within the agency. According to The Washington Post, their investigation "found sloppy record-keeping, inattention to detail, and accounting problems," but no direct "evidence that Aramony had enriched himself." Their biggest criticism was that documentation was lacking to distinguish business expenditures from personal charges. The outrage from local United Way organizations across the country was overwhelming. Many disaffiliated themselves and discontinued their 1% "contribution" of dues to the national office; some filed name changes.
During a teleconference on February 27, 1992, Aramony announced his retirement with full pension benefits as soon as a successor was chosen. Until then, he would continue to receive his $390,000 salary and $73,000 in other compensation. When Jay R. Smith, publisher of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and an active volunteer at United Way of Atlanta asked Aramony if he felt that they were not owed an apology, Aramony said:
Well, Jay, you absolutely are. I do apologize for any problems that my lack of sensitivity to perceptions has caused this movement. I do it happily and gladly to you and everyone else. I would never do anything at all that hurt local United Ways, the mission or the people we serve.
The following day, after an avalanche of calls from local chapters demanding his ouster, Senior vice president Alan S. Cooper was named acting president.
Later that year, Aramony was charged, along with CFO Thomas J. Merlo and Partnership Umbrella President Stephen J. Paulachak, in a 71-count Federal indictment of defrauding their organization of $1.2 million through misuse of leave salary, misreporting expenses such as billing private travel as a company expense, and drawing retirement benefits from the United Way of America retirement fund while he was still working there.
A secondary issue that was not litigated was the Sexual harassment committed by William Aramony. He was accused of pressuring numerous office workers to have sex with him. According to the indictment, he propositioned female employees and offered the women "financial benefits if they had sex with him and transferred" or suppressed the careers of "those who rebuffed him."
Rina Duncan, Aramony's former secretary, testified that she had had an affair with Mr. Aramony beginning shortly after she was hired in 1982 and lasting until 1985. During trial, the court admitted testimony from several UWA female employees who testified that they had sexual relationships with Aramony and two UWA employees who rejected Aramony’s sexual advances in 1985.
When Lisa Villasor Thomas was 22, she met William Aramony on an airplane. He got her a job at UWA and their affair began in July, 1986. They traveled together to San Francisco, New York City and other locations for business. Everything was fine until he "met someone he liked even more: her kid sister."
Lori Villasor graduated from high school in Gainesville, Florida in 1986. She was unsure what to do with her life, so she accepted her older sister’s invitation to move to Alexandria, Virginia and share an apartment. Soon after meeting the 17-year old Lori, the 59-year old Aramony began pursuing her. Lisa Thomas, outraged, told Aramony that she "didn't want him contacting me or Lori at all".
But Aramony moved Lori into her own expensive condominium in New York and furnished it lavishly with Partnership Umbrella dollars. Aramony siphoned hundreds of thousands of charity dollars through ‘’Partnership Umbrella’’ to spend on fancy meals, trips and gifts, to keep her as his mistress.
Lori Villasor testified that she had received from Aramony for two consecutive years $27,500 compensation as an employee of United Way for working on a real estate deal which actually required only "an hour or so" total of her time. Aramony also flew Villasor and her younger sister LuAnn to Las Vegas as a graduation gift for LuAnn.
Rina Duncan, Aramony's assistant, stated that after Aramony began dating Villasor, "he would run up big bills for airplane flights and entertainment." Ms. Duncan admitted that she had altered Aramony's expense accounts for seven years by substituting the names of clients for Ms. Villasor's name and charging UWA for personal luxury items given to Ms. Villasor.
At one point, Villasor threatened to leave Aramony if Duncan continued to work for him. Time magazine notes that Aramony found a position "for Duncan at Partnership Umbrella, the U.W.A. spin-off company that he would use to fund his affair with Villasor."
According to court documents, Aramony was also seeing another UWA employee, Anita Terranova, between 1987 and 1991. Aramony purchased half ownership of a race horse, Stylish Affair, in Terranova’s name and spent $125,576.92 to purchase a Florida condominium for Terranova's use until her retirement in May 1991. He also gave $10,000 to Terranova to furnish the condominium.
On April 3, 1995, after a three week trial, Mr. Aramony was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on 25 counts including conspiracy to defraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, transportation of fraudulently acquired property, engaging in monetary transactions in unlawful activity, filing false tax returns and aiding in the filing of false tax returns. Money laundering charges were dismissed. He was sentenced to 84 months in prison, fined $300,000 and served the time at the Federal Prison Camp at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, near Goldsboro, North Carolina. He was released from prison on September 28, 2001 and was on probation for three years.
Aramony never acknowledged any wrongdoing or expressed remorse. He appealed his convictions and sentences; all of his appeals were denied. "Aramony's lawyer says his client's judgment was impaired because of brain atrophy" and noted "that Aramony had a cancer that led to surgical castration" while he was seeing Lori Villasor.
Lori Villasor ended her affair with Aramony in 1992.
While still incarcerated in 1996, Aramony filed a $5 million lawsuit against UWA, claiming he was denied earnings and retirement benefits that were due him. UWA counter-sued and a United States district court issued a split decision which both parties appealed. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a portion of the lower court's decision: United Way of America owed Aramony $2.4 million in pension benefits, less UWF's $2.02 million award against Aramony. After subtracting the amount Aramony owed UWA from the New York state attorney general's judgement against him, applicable income tax withholdings and attorney's fees, Aramony received $7,871.