Friday, December 14, 2012

Government Failure To Do Background Check Nets Program Tens of Millions

      by Gary Snyder
      The federal government awarded a $29 million contract to a nonprofit group based on assertions that its founder, Jack A. Brown III, was a veteran of gulf war combat with deep expertise in air-defense artillery and that the company had consulted closely with leading community organizations about setting up the federal halfway house in Brooklyn. None of these claims are true, an investigation by The New York Times showed. A year after the contract went into effect, the 161-bed halfway house run by Community First Services has already had three addresses in Brooklyn.
Even though the federal government is paying Community First Services $98 a day for each inmate, one of the three locations was in the basement of a rundown hotel crammed between a junkyard and a homeless shelter. Inmates entering and leaving the building on work-release programs had to run a gantlet of drug dealers on the street. 
Mr. Brown, chief executive of Community First has left a trail of exaggerated claims and self-dealing. He was also a key figure in one of the biggest lobbying scandals in Albany in the past decade. He acknowledged that Community First’s Web site and its bids for government contracts had contained incorrect claims about the group’s and his own accomplishments. He said he had revised the information after being questioned about it by The New York Times.
In 2003, he testified before the state lobbying commission that his company at the time, Correctional Services Corporation, provided gifts and transportation to lawmakers without disclosing the spending. the company was fined $300,000, the largest lobbying penalty issued at the time.
Mr. Brown has portrayed himself as a gulf war veteran who served in the Army, according to his résumé. In 1999, Representative Edolphus Towns, a Brooklyn Democrat, read a statement in Congress praising Mr. Brown for serving four years in the Army’s Air Defense Artillery Division. Neither account was right. Mr. Brown served in the Army Reserves and National Guard, and never abroad, military records show. 
Mr. Brown has also said he has a master’s degree in “community economic development,” which is not the case. Some of these claims were included in an application that Community First submitted this year to open a charter school in New York. Mr. Brown has no background in education. The group withdrew the application after The Times asked Mr. Brown about it. Scott Levenson, a spokesman for Mr. Brown, blamed others for the inaccuracies. 
Community First’s Web site announced that the group was “currently funded by or developing projects with” seven government agencies. It also said it had several partnerships with major nonprofit groups. Nearly all the government agencies and nonprofit groups said they had never heard of Community First. 
As if that is not enough, Community First paid Mr. Brown a $241,900 salary in 2010, according to its most recent disclosure records to the Internal Revenue Service. The group also employs his brother and sister.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more Nonprofits: On the Brink (2006) Silence: The Impending Threat to the Charitable Sector (2011)
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