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United Way of L.A.'s New President Sets Sights on Raising $200 Million

July 07, 1987|CAROL McGRAW | Times Staff Writer

The new president of the United Way of Los Angeles said Monday that he wants to improve the charity's image in light of last year's loan problems and get its lagging campaign back on track.

Leo P. Cornelius, who recently headed Philadelphia's United Way, has taken over the Los Angeles job on the heels of last week's announcement that the charity fell $8.6 million short of its $90-million campaign goal for the year.

"This community ought to be raising $200 million, and we are going to pursue it aggressively," Cornelius, 53, said at a news conference at United Way headquarters.

He noted that the charity's parent group, United Way of America, had challenged local groups to double their campaign goals in the next five years.

Cornelius acknowledged that a $200-million goal will be difficult to achieve.

"I can't say we can do it in five years, but we are going to challenge ourselves and the community to do so," he said.

Volunteer fund-raisers are being organized for the 1987-88 campaign, but next year's goal will not be announced until the fall, he said.

A $200-million goal would be feasible if United Way attracts more volunteers and goes about fund raising differently, Cornelius said. The charity has to find ways of reaching more small businesses, he said. Traditionally, the United Way has focused on contacting large companies because it is the least expensive way of soliciting donations.

Cornelius also said that the organization will work to erase the "public's confusion" about the charity--a reference to a controversy about several questionable financial decisions by United Way.

Poor Judgment

The dealings were investigated by a committee named by the charity's board of directors and by the Los Angeles county counsel. The studies found that top officials and volunteers used poor judgment in authorizing $330,000 in loans to five executives but concluded there had been no dishonesty.

Cornelius said the charity's new policy regarding loans is "not to make any loans period." Cornelius succeeded Francis X. McNamara, who retired after 38 years of United Way work, including 20 years in Los Angeles.

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