More on Erie, PA and the International Institute

This is sort of an update, but really should have been the preview to the post I wrote last week about the firing (dismissal, resignation or whatever) of the International Institute of Erie director.    Last week I posted on a news report from Erie that the director had been fired for misusing funds and escorted from the non-profit’s offices by Peter Limon of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).  The International Institute is USCRI’s subcontractor.

However, this article from a week earlier says that the director, Mr. O’Brien, had already resigned and the article reveals that the Institute had been in financial trouble for some time.

He stepped in at a difficult time. The institute’s last executive director, Michael Murnock, had resigned in March, saying at the time he did so to save the institute his $55,000 annual salary. The International Institute then was in financial trouble; in 2006, it had a budget of $1.4 million, according to federal tax forms.


The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a Washington, D.C.-based aid agency, took over management of the institute in February. However, a formal agreement to merge the two organizations has been delayed. The merger originally was expected to be in September.

Although they have been short on funds that isn’t stopping them from bringing hundreds more refugees to Erie.   They will keep bringing refugees as long as the city and its citizens are “welcoming” and don’t say a word.  But, it’s this business of bringing in hundreds of refugees on a shoestring budget that gets these organizations in trouble as its sister organization in Connecticut has recently demonstrated.

The number of refugees settling in Erie is up. The institute accepted 200 refugees in 2007, including families from Myanmar, Iraq and sub-Saharan Africa. In October, O’Brien said that number would rise to 300 in 2008.

Then it strikes me as extremely strange that the guy, Director O’Brien,  who was helping to find more taxpayer money for these non-profits and who has helped the Institute work together with other Erie non-profits despite being competitors for tax dollars in refugee procurement, is getting the boot by being unceremoniously led from the office by an USCRI bigwig from Washington.

His departure shocked the directors of other local refugee programs. O’Brien had met regularly with them to draft a state grant application that would expand refugee services in Erie County. The measure would add family counseling and a shuttle between the institute and the Hispanic American Council.


The groups once had a contentious relationship. O’Brien improved it, said Joel Tuzynski, the executive director of the Hispanic American Council.

The bigwig, Peter Limon (any relation to Lavinia Limon the CEO?), is not listed as an employee of USCRI either on its website or its Form 990.  So, what’s up with that?   If any reader knowledgeable about the situation would fill me in on what is going on in Erie, e-mail me at, I would really appreciate it.   If you want to tell another side of this story, please speak up.

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