This story was almost unbelievable; until we gathered the facts
by Peter Weinberger | firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this week we published part one and part two of a story about Feeling Groovy owner Nicole Lanni, who as chair-elect of the Claremont Chamber was going to be named executive committee chairperson to the organization, one of the most prominent business positions in Claremont. Before she started her position, the COURIER was contacted by several Chamber members who were upset about business dealings with Ms. Lanni.
After conducting our research, the COURIER learned this was far more than one business deal gone bad. Ms. Lanni has a long history of questionable business practices dating back years. And dozens of people in Claremont were impacted. Part one explained how that happened. The link to that story is at www.claremont-courier.com/articles/news/t36001chamber.
Part two, which is included in today’s print edition, shows that Ms. Lanni has a background of lawsuits, judgements, scammed associates and employees, including serious labor law violations. Here is the link to this story.
Since the story broke, we have been contacted by 16 more people, mostly employees who have endured verbal threats and unpaid wages, in a toxic work environment. Ms. Lanni’s approach was simple. Start a business, befriend key city officials and other business leaders in an effort to gain credibility. Ms. Lanni donated a lot of time to the Chamber in an effort to meet people. Her business Feeling Groovy, was named Claremont Business of the Year. She was also selected to a workshops as part of the Chamber’s emerging leader program, mentoring Claremont’s young businesses people.
Unfortunately, this is a story where no one wins. And the people hurt by this most are the hard working people of Claremont who trusted Ms. Lanni.
When Claremont names were mentioned by a subject in our story, we confirmed the quotes for accuracy, then listed those names to show how Ms. Lanni operated and the people she knew.
These people were used for Ms. Lanni’s financial gain. We also answered concerns readers expressed over the impact of her dealings. This included direct quotes from the Claremont Chamber board and staff, stating Ms. Lanni had no access to any funds. We gave everyone an opportunity to clear the air.
We quoted Sara Antonucci, an active Chamber member and Claremont Rotarian. She loaned Ms. Lanni $5,000 and was soon ghosted by her after sending her the money. We covered the entire story with accurate quotes, including finding specific court documents. It was a tangled web. And that web is huge.
The public not only has a right to know what’s impacting their community, local business owners need to protect themselves against possible scams.
Why did we publish this story?
Most readers connected the dots of this complex story, fully understanding why it was published. The Chamber is one of the largest and most influential nonprofits in Claremont, and accepting Ms. Lanni’s resignation was the right thing to do.
Had the COURIER learned about this story, but elected not to publish out of fear of making people mad, what do you say to the victims? Do we just not care and dismiss this as just another bad business deal? Not everyone can help themselves in these types of situations. We are here to report the truth and sometimes it means writing tough stories about people we know and work with.
Members of the business community did contact us concerned they would be guilty by association and demanded their names be removed. Since our information is accurate, in all cases verified by multiple sources, our report is not changing.
The victims are hard-working people of the city, including councilmembers, volunteers and staff at the Chamber, and of course, Ms. Antonucci and others who literally were afraid to speak in public.
Ms. Lanni will gather her belongings and eventually move on to another community leaving victims in her wake. Have we come to a point where we wish harm to the people who make Claremont, Claremont? These are people I know and respect, which is why we feel so strongly this compelling story needed to go public.