Here’s a press release from the communications director for Baton Rouge mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome on the issue of the Hope Zone and Youth Empowerment Solutions contracts included in a spreadsheet containing several items which look a whole lot like the mayor was paying off her political allies by looting the BRAVE program…
All contracts under the Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) Program are funded through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant (BCJI). No funds came from BRAVE to fund any programs under the BCJI / BR Hope Zone Project. All contracts state, “Parties acknowledge that this contract is funded through the U.S. Office of Justice Programs Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) Program whose award number is 2013-AJ-BX-0002, and the amount of the award is $999,998 for implementation of the Baton Rouge Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) Program.”
The spreadsheet that news media and other individuals are viewing include both BRAVE and BCJI because they are both Department of Justice programs. There are two separate award numbers for each.
The reports posted on Open Data BR are not being interpreted correctly. Funding codes are not listed at all. The department code and department name that appear on the report are not representative of the funding used to pay for BCJI/YES contracts.
It has been discovered that there was a clerical error in the purchasing department, and the department name on some of the BCJI/YES contracts was entered incorrectly. The report generated by the finance department reflects that all BCJI/YES contracts were indeed paid by the BCJI grant through the Department of Justice. Furthermore, no BRAVE or BCJI/YES contracts have ever been paid — nor are they currently being paid — through the Mayor-President’s Special Programs budget.
About the Youth Empowerment Solutions Program (YES)
YES is a youth empowerment leadership curriculum facilitated to BR Hope Zone youth to decrease juvenile delinquency and increase access to opportunities for positive pro-social activities. The curriculum used is the Youth Empowerment Solutions Curriculum from the University of Michigan (YES). This curriculum is designed for youth from low income or communities more likely to experience violence and other social trauma. YES is a program that includes empowering processes for youth. It helps youth develop the skills they need to assess their community, and it gives them decision-making power in developing and implementing community change projects. Participating in empowering activities can help youth avoid risky behaviors and develop into productive, healthy adults.
About the Hope Zone
The Baton Rouge Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative (BR-BCJI) Program targets an approximately 5.2 square mile cluster of six adjoining neighborhoods at the heart of a chronic crime concentration in Baton Rouge. These interconnected neighborhoods are Istrouma, Greenville Extension (Gus Young), Eden Park, Midtown (Belfair), Smiley Heights/Fairfields and Melrose East. An analysis of Baton Rouge’s violent crime rate clearly establishes the adjacent 70805 and 70802 zip code areas as the center of a serious crime “hot spot,” with eastward movement into the neighboring 70806 zip code.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome
City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge
222 Saint Louis St.
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
This would seem to make sense, as those programs would appear to be well outside the basic premise of BRAVE – namely, that it would use computer-crunched crime data in order to surge police into areas where violent crimes can be predicted, and also to interdict gang activity.
The problem with this acquittal on YES and Hope Zone is that it doesn’t explain why Broome ally Cleve Dunn scored a $17,500 contract to run a taxi service for BRAVE participants, and it doesn’t explain why politically-connected people with ugly histories like Isaiah Marshall and Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed are getting lucrative deals to do things which seem unnecessary.
It also doesn’t explain why the federal dollars for the BRAVE program were pulled, though the mayor’s office, through Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. James Gilmore, seems to have another answer for that – namely, that Broome’s predecessor Kip Holden screwed that up…
In addition, The Advocate reviewed another email Wednesday which provided more information about the Department of Justice’s decision not to extend the BRAVE grant despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city-parish hoped to move forward.
Carmen Santiago Roberts, the program manager for the U.S. Department Of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, outlined four reasons why the Department of Justice refused to approve an extension of the grant in a July 24 email.
She pointed out that the department only allows one extension per 12 months and that Baton Rouge did not meet the justification for another one, as she said the city-parish had already received two prior extensions.
An analysis from her office of the grant’s performance found “substantial deficiencies in the management of this grant” based on a lack of programming and the unused money, Roberts said. The city-parish also did not provide reports on the program by deadlines, and when they finally arrived, the reports included neither enough data nor narrative information about how successful the implementation of BRAVE was.
Finally, Roberts wrote that the city-parish failed to show that the services proposed in its 2012 application for the BRAVE grant were actually being provided, and the city-parish was not showing that the number of youth mentioned in its grant were actually being reached.
On Wednesday, Gilmore pinned the blame for the problems Roberts listed on mismanagement from the previous administration who worked on the grant under former Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Gilmore said it’s disappointing that Broome’s office is under attack for its administration of the BRAVE grant. He said the goal — after the federal government denied the request to carry forward the remaining grant money past the September deadline — was to use the money left on after school and summer programs, given that crime tends to spike in the summer.
We’re not sure we’re buying that, considering that the feds announced they were pulling the BRAVE money on July 19. Gilmore, who took over as the administrator of the BRAVE program and who was featured yesterday in an e-mail asking District Attorney Hillar Moore to put paperwork together to facilitate the Silky Slim contract, had some five months to fix what was broken in order to resuscitate the federal grant and instead we had Cleve Dunn’s taxi service and Isaiah Marshall’s basketball tournaments.
What it at least looks like is that the mayor’s office knew they were losing the grant and the BRAVE program would probably dissolve without it anyway, so what money they had left they figured they could dole out to their friends. That’s why e-mail exchanges like this between Metro Councilman Dwight Hudson and Gilmore have been materializing…
HUDSON: Dr. Gilmore,
At the 2/22/17 Council meeting the council deleted item #74 at the request of the Mayor’s office. Please click here for the Metro 21 recording in case you need to reference the discussion. This item would of increased funding to LSU in the amount of $125,000 for facilitation of the program. At the meeting you indicated that the item would be reintroduced once you had a chance to learn more about the program and do some due diligence. In light of the recent events involving Arthur Reed’s comments I have had constituents reach out to me with concerns about those dollars. Please help answer the questions below at your earliest convenience.
1. Does the Mayor’s office still plan to reintroduce the item?
2. If yes, is the Mayor’s office requesting that any changes be made to the contract with LSU?
3. Have these dollars been used for any other purpose?
4. What has caused the delay in having the item reintroduced?
EBR Councilman, District 9
GILMORE: Evening Councilman,
You are correct. I requested the item be deleted because the budget spreadsheet as of 2/13/17 showed a Total Budget of $681,233.00 for LSU School of Social Work, OSSRD Research Team and Project Evaluation. The Expenditures at that time were $645,145.37, leaving a remaining balance of $36,087.63. I was not sure at the time how the $125,000 would be paid. There was seven months remaining in the grant.
After speaking with LSU, I was informed the $125,000 would be needed if the grant were to be extended. Therefore, in the extension request to the feds we included that amount (reprogramming dollars in other categories where money had not been spent) for LSU. The extension request was denied, and therefore the item was never brought back to Council. Thanks for the follow-up, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Dr. James Gilmore, Jr.
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer
City of Baton Rouge/Parish of East Baton Rouge
Office of Mayor-President
Again, this would all make sense if Gilmore and the rest of the mayor’s team figured the federal grant extension was hopeless, so why not spread a little silage around to the livestock. Otherwise it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have pulled the LSU funding when you still had hope or expectation the grant would be extended – if the grant didn’t go in for another year you could always kill the $125,000 later and everybody would understand why.
So there’s still plenty of meat on the BRAVE scandal bone, and the people looking into it should keep looking. If the situation with the federal money was made hopeless due to Holden’s mismanagement then by all means we should have the evidence for that out for the people to see – with the understanding that if Kip Holden was incompetent that means neither that Broome is competent nor that she has an excuse for incompetence.
But at least we now have an explanation for some of the money and contracts included on the BRAVE spreadsheet.