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Youth advocates can probably rest assured that the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the city-funded nonprofit that doles out grants to other nonprofits, isn’t going away.
The CYITC’s been under a harsh spotlight ever since disgraced former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to using the trust to help him fleece taxpayers of more than $350,000.
Immediately after Thomas’ plea, Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown indicated he wanted the CYITC shut down. But he’s backed off that position, and the general sentiment around the Wilson Building is that the trust needs to be reformed, not done away with. Still, that hasn’t stopped the trust from paying $6,000 to commission a study justifying it’s own existence and the need for additional funding.
At the council’s yearly oversight hearing for the trust today, both Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells indicated that they think the CYITC is worth saving.
The real question, it seems to LL, isn’t whether the trust has a future, but whether that future includes its current CEO, Ellen London.
Graham grilled London for a couple of hours at today’s hearing over her role in the Thomas saga. London was a vice president in charge of communications and government relations during the period when Thomas was using the trust to do his stealing. Today, Graham read aloud emails obtained from the trust showing that 1) London was kept in the loop involving the funding for the pass-through organization Thomas used to do most of his stealing, 2) she spent part of her time making sure that the pass-through was paid on time, and 3) she knew there were problems with the paperwork being submitted by Thomas’ staffer on behalf of that pass-through organization.
None of that means London had any inkling that Thomas was stealing city money, but it does raise questions about whether she was too accommodating in a situation where there were, in the words of Graham, “lots of flags.”
Unfortunately, London’s been prevented from sharing her side of the story because the U.S. Attorney’s Office is still investigating the whole affair.
But if the trust is trying to rebuild its brand and move forward, can someone who, fairly or unfairly, is now linked to the Thomas fiasco play a part in that rebuilding effort? Remember that the trust’s former director, Millicent West, has already lost her job as head of the city’s homeland security agency for how she dealt with Thomas.
In theory, only the trust’s board can decide London’s future. But that doesn’t mean the District’s elected officials won’t soon weigh in.
“It’s a good question,” says Wells of whether London deserves to keep her gig. “And I will consider giving my advice to the board.”
Photo by Alan Suderman