The Jewish National Fund has removed the name of a disbarred lawyer from its website, hours after the Forward revealed that the JNF had continued to list him as a member of its national board despite long-running legal scandal.
Stanley Chesley, a former president of the JNF, has been ordered to pay $42 million to former clients whose settlement money he pocketed. Yet despite his disbarment in 2013, and an opinion issued by a federal circuit court this past summer saying that he appeared to be “orchestrating a high-stakes shell game” to avoid paying the $42 million judgement, the JNF continues to honor Chesley with positions and titles.
Chesley was named the group’s “special ambassador” to Israel and the Israeli JNF in 2014, was listed as a board member in the group’s tax filings through 2015. Until Thursday morning, his name appeared on a list on the JNF’s website titled “National Board of Directors,” alongside other board members, including current president Sol Lizerbram. His name has now been removed from the list.
JNF leadership has ignored questions about its relationship to Chesley for months. In June of 2018, a top-level JNF donor and regional leader named Joel Friedlander emailed top JNF leaders, saying that Chesley’s ongoing role within the JNF pointed to broader problems of governance within the organization. “I think we need to realize that JNF has a problem of powerful folks sticking up for each other,” Friedlander wrote.
Friedlander received no response to his letter.
The Forward first contacted the JNF in October to ask why Chesley was listed on the organization’s website as a member of its national board of directors. The JNF did not respond until Thursday morning, after the story was published.
“Mr. Chesley served as president from 2007 until disbarred when he was replaced by now-First Vice President Alan Dabrow who served in the interim until Jeffrey E. Levine became national president in 2013,” the group’s communications director, Adam Brill, wrote in an email. “Mr. Chesley is listed in records now only as Past President and assumes no voting rights or role on any board of Jewish National Fund.”
Brill did not respond to a question about why the JNF had removed him from its website after the story was published.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.