New Charities Top Cop In New York

January 17, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

A longtime assistant U.S. attorney who was also a Medicaid investigator has been tapped to lead one of the largest charities bureaus in the nation.

James G. Sheehan was appointed chief of the Charities Bureau, succeeding Jason R. Lilien. Lilien stepped down this past fall after five years to start the Nonprofit Organizations Practice of the New York City law firm Zuckerman Spaeder.

Sheehan will direct the bureau’s “affirmative investigations and litigation, its review of sales, mergers and dissolutions of not-for-profits, and its representation of the interests of charitable beneficiaries in trusts and estates matters,” according to a press release issued by a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office. He will lead a staff of 70, according to a spokesperson, who declined to reveal the salary for the post.

“Under Jim’s stewardship, the Charities Bureau will continue to be a national leader in the regulation and oversight of our important nonprofit sector and to serve as a model for enforcement and transparency efforts for nonprofits across the country,” Schneiderman said in announcing the appointment.

Sheehan has more than 30 years of high-level experience working as an attorney for the city, state and federal governments. He currently is chief integrity officer for the New York City Human Resources Administration, the nation’s largest social services and health care benefits agency.

Sheehan served as Medicaid Inspector General for the state from 2007 to 2011, overseeing investigations of fraud and waste. For more than 25 years, he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As chief of the Civil Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he supervised significant national cases, including a number of health care matters. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and English form Swarthmore College and earn his law degree from Harvard Law School.

New York’s Charities Bureau is among the largest and most prominent in the nation, overseeing more than 100,000 nonprofit organizations. Among the more prominent accomplishments often cited are passage of The Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013, the first comprehensive reform of the state’s nonprofit laws in decades. The office also was active in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, reviewing storm-related contributions to make sure funds were distributed as advertised to donors. In October, an agreement between four charities, including the American Red Cross, and the AG’s office, led to another $10 million earmarked for unmet needs, as well as a change in the way Red Cross solicits for future disasters. The Red Cross raised more than $300 million for Sandy relief efforts.