City Paper is not for tourists
“I am a different kind of council member. I ran to get resources, to uplift people of Ward 8 to do everything I can to empower them.”—Councilmember Marion S. Barry Jr. on the dais yesterday in response to Robert Bennett‘s testimony.
As the Bennett Report lays out in detail, Barry’s nonprofits enriched few outside of his inner circle. At best, they provide a blueprint for how nonprofits should not be run.
Blueprint after the jump!
Bennett’s investigation did some serious digging into the financial records of the six nonprofits—-Clean and Green, Inc., Clean and Sober, Inc., Education Council, Inc., Health Council Inc., Workforce Development Council, Inc., and the Youth Leadership Council, Inc.—-conceived by Barry. They found:
*60 percent of the six nonprofits’ budget went to administrative salaries.
*8.65 percent went to the fiscal agents.
*$23,885 was spent on office supplies and telephones
*$3,091 was spent on postage.
*$35,376 was spent on marketing and promotion materials.
*$13,589 was spent on catering.
*14.1 percent of the total budgets fell under “miscellaneous.”
So what’s the takeaway?
Only really bad nonprofits devote 60 percent of their budget to salaries. And despite all this money spent on food and promotions, hardly anyone we talked to in Ward 8 over the summer had heard of these nonprofits.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, Washington City Paper obtained documents on the day-to-day business of the nonprofits. The documents provide some insight into just how these organizations function and how wide a net they cast.
One meeting of the Ward 8 Health Council is indicative of the groups’ outreach problems. According to a memo detailing the minutes of the Jan. 16, 2009, Health Council meeting, interested parties lamented its poor attendance. During one discussion, individuals “agreed to make a concerted effort to get at least 25 citizens to the table” for its February meeting.
Those listed on the Ward 8 Health Council’s contact list included a woman who had quit the organization and former Barry girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt.
Among the food expenses on behalf of the Ward 8 Health Council: an invoice for $250.00 for “juices,” “veg. soup” and “weightloss + nutrition juices.” It is unclear from the invoice whether this cost included more than just juices and soup.
In April 2009, the Ward 8 Health Council spent $1,238.75 for T-shirts and brochures.
The Bennett Report states the operations of the nonprofits were managed mainly out of Barry’s constituent services office. At best, the work of some of the nonprofits went incomplete. The agendas of some of the nonprofits were typed up on Barry letterhead—-evidence, perhaps, that the nonprofit managers were serious about keeping expenses low.
The Bennett findings zeroed in on the woman Barry tapped to oversee the nonprofits—-Brenda Richardson. She raked in more than $100,000 for work that the report characterizes as follows: “Ms. Richardson was in charge of quality control for the councils, selected various vendors utilized by the councils, and regularly reported to Council Member Barry regarding the councils.”
The Bennett team found a very legal way of saying that Richardson was overpaid:
“Ms. Richardson submitted invoices for payment to the councils reflecting that she worked fewer hours than she was committed to work, but she was nonetheless paid the full amounts under the contract for the pertinent pay period.”
Richardson was supposed to work 20 hours per week for each council. But according to the invoices she submitted, she worked 10 hours per week. Yet her paychecks overlooked the invoices, paying her for the full 20 hours per week. Richardson held this arrangement with three of the nonprofit organizations, meaning that she was compensated for 60 hours of work per week, or one-and-a-half employees. “These invoices were not questioned by the fiscal agents or the agencies monitoring each grant,” the report states.
In his deposition, Barry called Richardson his “accountability officer.”