- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The director of a nonprofit group accused of misappropriating more than $300,000 from the District’s HIV/AIDS program to renovate a strip club used derogatory and homophobic terms on his radio program to describe two openly gay members of the D.C. Council, saying efforts to hold him accountable were part of a racist agenda.

Cornell Jones, director of the nonprofit group Miracle Hands, used his Saturday radio show on WOL-AM 1450 to attack council members David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

On his show, “Keeping up with the Joneses,” Mr. Jones said Mr. Catania and Mr. Graham are “a couple of gay guys who sometimes get to acting like little faggots.”

The Office of the Attorney General launched its probe at the request of Mr. Catania. Last week Mr. Graham expressed outrage about the findings of that probe.

Mr. Jones, who is black and frequently employs racial imagery while discussing politics on the show, also claimed that much larger sums had been in question at Whitman-Walker Health, a prominent AIDS clinic that Mr. Graham previously ran, but that racial bias on the part of Mr. Graham, Mr. Catania and other white officials was to blame for the attorney general’s action against him.

D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan filed a false-claims complaint last week against Miracle Hands and Mr. Jones, charging them with misusing city funds set aside for renovations on a proposed job-training center.

Asked to comment on Mr. Jones‘ remarks, Mr. Catania’s office responded in an email: “That kind of hateful language has no place in public discourse. It is all the more abhorrent and harmful coming from the director of a non-profit that received public funds.”

Mr. Graham declined to comment, saying, “I don’t want to be distracted from the major issue, which is whether Mr. Jones committed wrongdoing through the use of public funds.”

WOL General Manager Chris Wegmann, program director Ron Thompson and Mr. Jones did not return calls for comment.

The attorney general’s complaint, filed in D.C. Superior Court, seeks $1 million in damages and accuses Mr. Jones and Miracle Hands of unjust enrichment and submitting false expenditure reports in violation of the District’s False Claims Act. It said Mr. Jones improperly diverted $329,000 in funds distributed by the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration for renovations at a warehouse in Northeast that now houses the Stadium Club, a “premier gentleman’s club.”

Yet the conversion did not occur and the job-training facility has never opened, the complaint says.

City financial records show that Miracle Hands received more than $5.8 million in D.C. funds from 2000 through February.

Calls to the HIV/AIDS Administration and the Department of Health, which provided more than $90,000 to Miracle Hands this year, were not returned.

In January, The Washington Times reported that the Stadium Club operates with a liquor license reserved in 2007 for a blighted warehouse property at 2127 Queens Chapel Road, which Mr. Jones owned at the time and used as the Miracle Hands office. By 2009, he had leased the property to a pair of businessmen who were purchasing the liquor license and planning to open a strip club there.

But as plans for the club came together, Mr. Jones, a convicted drug trafficker immortalized in the Black Entertainment Television series “American Gangster,” and Miracle Hands also were receiving the HIV/AIDS grants for renovation work at the same location, the attorney general’s office said.

Mr. Jones sold the property for $2.7 million in 2010, according to D.C. property records. The Stadium Club opened that same year.

In April, The Times reported that the FBI and the D.C. Inspector General’s Office had requested documentation about Miracle Hands from the HIV/AIDS Administration. Neither agency would confirm or deny the existence of a criminal investigation.

The attorney general’s action last week prompted Mayor Vincent C. Gray to publicly deny that Mr. Jones campaigned for him last year, as reported in The Times.

But the complaint does not seem to have bothered Mr. Jones, who joked about the attorney general’s complaint on the air: “Ooh, we’re all in hot water now.”