Is the District working on a Peaceoholics bailout?

Two city officials tell Washington City Paper the anti-violence group—whose founder, Ron Moten, is one of Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s biggest boosters—is broke, and that the administration is trying, quietly, to find some $400,000 to pay them. According to these sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Fenty and aides have been looking for money for the Peaceoholics in the budgets of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation.

What’s a little unclear from talking to city officials is whether the money supposedly involved is money the organization is already owed, or whether it would be new cash to stave off a financial crisis at the group. Peaceoholics have gotten $10 million in grants and loans from D.C. government and other agencies since 2005, for various purposes; Fenty critics say it’s mostly been wasted, but the mayor has defended Moten’s work. The mayor has some power to move money around quickly and directly, but overstepping it has landed him in hot water before.

Fenty spokeswoman Mafara Hobson says there’s nothing unusual going on; the administration is merely looking to make sure Peaceoholics get paid for their services. “The organization has provided work for both the Trust and DYRS, which would result in payment from both agencies,” she e-mailed City Paper. A request for documents that show DYRS and the Trust owe the Peaceaholics money, though, has so far gone unanswered.

Outside the administration, there’s some skepticism. “I don’t believe it,” says Ward 6  Councilmember Tommy Wells. Wells, who chairs the D.C. Council Committee on Human Services that oversees the two agencies, doesn’t know what they might need to pay Peaceaholics for. Still, it’s hard to imagine Fenty would deliberately try to funnel money to Peaceoholics that it wasn’t owed, a month before an election in which charges of “cronyism” have been flying back and forth; politically, there’s nothing but downside there.

For his part, Moten said there was no question Peaceoholics needed money—and that the group is owed some payments from the District. “We’ve done work for DYRS that we didn’t get paid for,” he said. Beyond that, he was a little vague on the details. “I don’t know anything about it, but I know we need funds,” he said. “I know that people have been trying to stop Peaceaholics from getting funding by any means necessary.”

Which “people,” exactly? One in particular: mayoral candidate and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray and his staff. “He’s a puppet master,” Moten said of Gray. In response, Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes said Gray “wants to make sure there is fair and equitable competition” for city contracts and grants—and that they don’t all go to Peaceoholics. She also said Moten “is way out of line.”

Moten wouldn’t directly answer questions about whether Peaceaholics is tapped out. But he says the group isn’t going away: “We will never go under. One thing about the founders is they know how to drink muddy water.”

File photograph by Darrow Montgomery