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City officials try to maintain distance from Africa charity

City Manager Vince Lupo and his elected boss City Council member Dale Massad have announced their resignations. But the nonprofit's records have yet to be updated.

By ALEX LEARY
Published June 9, 2003

PORT RICHEY - In February 2002, just before the city elections, Vince Lupo publicly announced his resignation from Africare Enviro-Med Corp., the charity he and Dale Massad oversaw with limited success.

Lupo said he did not want to turn the partnership into something political as Massad was running for City Council. Lupo thought the issue died that night.

Not long after the election, which Massad won, corporate papers filed with the state indicated Lupo remained on Africare's board of directors.

The records still do, as does the organization's Web site.

Massad told the Times last week that he accidentally neglected to remove Lupo's name from the records. He has a February 2002 letter proving Lupo's resignation. The Web site - www.africareem.org - is far outdated, Massad said.

Now Massad himself has stepped down. He sent a letter to the state in March, announcing his resignation as of Feb. 16.

The decision to resign, Massad said, came during talks over the city's controversial bingo ordinance, which made it possible, briefly, for operators of the cruise-to-nowhere casino boats to run weeklong games, proceeds of which were to go to charity.

"I felt like in order to cast a fair vote, I didn't need to be in charge of a small charity," Massad said. Without going into detail, he said health reasons also played into his decision.

Massad, 52, has previously said he organized Africare after visits to South Africa, with the hope of building a clinic to provide health care and education for poor families. In exchange for free medical help, the members of the Shangann tribe were to patrol the borders of a wildlife ranch.

Lupo was valuable, Massad said, because he had expertise in obtaining federal grants. But the plan stumbled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks and grant money dried up, he said. Massad, a former medical doctor who surrendered his license to practice in 1992, said he also encountered problems bringing medicine into South Africa.

As of June 1, Lupo and Massad still were listed on the Web site for the state's Division of Corporations' as officers of the charity.

Massad said that would be different under the 2003 corporate filing. Massad said that will be submitted by a Michigan man who Massad said has assumed responsibility for Africare.

James Herbert, who lives in Michigan and is listed as a director of Africare, declined to talk with a Times reporter. Herbert also is listed as an "international sportsman" on the Web site for Mahlapholane Safari, the lodge Lupo visited during hunting trips to Africa.

Despite formally distancing themselves from Africare, Lupo and Massad say they will continue to privately support its work, particularly a trauma center in Warmbaths.

Massad said the criticism and speculation he and Lupo have faced, "is absolute bull." But, he added, "any distractions become major distractions, so the easiest thing to do was step down and do things on the sideline."

- Alex Leary covers the city of Port Richey. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is leary@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 9, 2003, 02:03:18]


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