Substance Abuse Center Head To El-Yateem: Where’s the money?

Rev. Khader El-Yateem (1)

The president of a Bay Ridge substance abuse treatment center blasted City Councilmember candidate Rev. Khader El-Yateem on Friday, for what she says are false claims and broken promises involving funding for a center she opened three years ago.

Donna Mae DePola, 68, president and CEO of The Resource Training Center, a nonprofit substance abuse counseling and treatment center, fired off a damning Facebook post denouncing El-Yateem’s claim that he helped to open and raise money for the Bay Ridge site at 408 77th St., in 2014. The Facebook post also suggested El-Yateem may have been dishonest in his dealings with DePola.

“Khader and his cronies were actually not only not involved, but were dishonest plain and simple,” read DePola’s Facebook post.

Donna Mae DePola Photo by Kadia Goba

DePola explained her accusations of dishonesty by recounting a story that involved deceased community icon, Larry Morrish. DePola says Morrish attended two nights of fundraising at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge, 6807 Fifth Avenue, which raised over $100,000 to be allocated to the new treatment facility. However, DePola claims she never saw any of the money and risked having to close the facility as a result of the broken promises made by El-Yateem and his associates.

DePola says, with no prompting from her, State Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights) made the generous donation that enabled her to keep the center open for business. “Marty Golden –– if he didn’t hand me $70,000, I’d be closed today,” said DePola. “That’s who deserves the credit.”

DePola admitted to KCP that associates of El-Yateem were responsible for finding the location of the Bay Ridge center and made contributions that covered the first month’s rent and security deposit, but considerably less than the facility’s monthly operating expenses of $25,000. DePola maintains, however, that El-Yateem did not contribute financially.

The drug rehab CEO says it wasn’t the first time she had heard the group taking credit for the facilities, and recalled an associate of El-Yateem announcing “he opened a drug center” during a march on 5th Avenue to raise awareness about drug abuse.

The treatment expert said she ignored the comment in 2014, but couldn’t help but to address the situation this time especially after learning El-Yateem was taking credit for raising money at a recent campaign meeting, as reported by KCP last week.

Rev. Khader El-Yateem. Photo by Kadia Goba

El-Yateem responded to DePola’s accusations. “I am very proud that in 2014, I called the first town hall meeting to discuss the drug issue in our neighborhood, an issue that for too long went unaddressed.” 

“I was fortunate at that meeting to be introduced to Donna Mae DePola, who is a champion for recovery and treatment programs. From that day I and other community leaders helped to raise seed money and identify a location so that Donna Mae could open up the Resource Counseling Center in our neighborhood, which has been helping people on the road to recovery ever since,” El-Yateem added in praise of DePola.

“Of course, without Donna Mae there is no Resource Counseling Center,” said El-Yateem. “But for my work in helping to make this happen to be erased, as well as for the work of other Arab community leaders to be erased, would be a shame.

“My work on this issue is an example of how I am willing to address difficult issues, and how I do this work not for the glory or the credit, but so that we can see positive change in our neighborhoods,” the pastor added. 

Both DePola and El-Yateem remain members of Community Board 10 but, according to DePola, have not spoken to each other since the incident.