You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

D.C. trust fund on the hot seat

Graham expects ‘quite a hearing’ on money tied to Thomas

- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2012

D.C. Council member Jim Graham expects "quite a hearing" Monday when he dives into the upcoming budget for the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp., a nonprofit that is feeling the aftershocks of former council member Harry Thomas Jr.'s scheme to steal more than $350,000 in public funds.

The trust was set up in 1999 under former Mayor Anthony A. Williams as a public-private partnership to fund youth programs. Now the organization is in a state of flux as its role as a conduit in the Thomas affair — although likely an unwitting one — is aired in public.

"There are some very significant issues," said Mr. Graham, chairman of the Committee on Human Services.

Federal prosecutors said Mr. Thomas, who faces a prison term at his May 3 sentencing, used the trust from 2007 to 2009 to direct funds to organizations of his choosing and pocketed the money.

Earlier this month, the trust's board decided to fire president and CEO Ellen London, about five weeks after Mr. Graham's committee discussed emails that show Ms. London was part of an "email loop" that outlined how trust officials allowed Mr. Thomas' requests to go forward without the usual vetting.

Ms. London's immediate predecessor, Millicent West, stepped down as director of the city's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Jan. 31 to avoid the "distraction" caused by events during her tenure at the trust.

Mr. Graham believes Ms. London, who started working at the trust in 2000 and took the reins in November 2009, was ousted because of unspecified material in an upcoming report by his committee that takes a close look at the trust.

"That's what I'm told," Mr. Graham said.

Ms. London's interim replacement, retired D.C. Superior Court Judge Mary Terrell, is expected to appear at Monday's budget hearing.

Mr. Graham also expects a "very long list" of stakeholders to testify in favor of the trust's mission and programs at his budget session Monday. The trust's budget for fiscal 2013 is only $3 million, with about $2.1 million dedicated to programs after subtracting administrative costs, Mr. Graham said.

He said his support for the programs is strong, yet he has additional priorities to fight for as the council put its stamp on Mayor Vincent C. Gray's budget proposal.

Mr. Graham has objected to the mayor's plan to raise $5.3 million by keeping bars open until 4 a.m. on weekends, but he must balance his opposition to the revenue-generator with his vocal support for funding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and homeless services.

Mr. Gray's plan includes $7 million for homeless services to replace a loss of federal funds and $14.7 for an enhanced job program under TANF, but only if revenue projections increase in fiscal 2013.

"There's a lot going on," Mr. Graham said. "We've got children living in stairwells."

© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.