All indications are the plan to have a Cure Violence program in Greensboro run by City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson is moving toward approval.
There was another major secret meeting on the program on Tuesday, April 30 reportedly with City Councilmembers, County Commissioners as well as city and county staff involved. Since it was secret it is difficult to report exactly who participated.
The City Council and County Commissioners are supposed to meet on Tuesday, May 7, for a rare joint public meeting to discus the contract which was presented and may have won preliminary approval at the secret meeting this week.
The plan is for the $600,000 per year Cure Violence program in Greensboro to be jointly funded by the City of Greensboro and Guilford County. There is some question about whether there is a majority on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners willing to vote to spend $300,000 on the program. The Greensboro City Council appears to be solidly behind it.
Cure Violence, a program that treats violence like it is an epidemic, is designed to be run through a public health department. Durham has the only Cure Violence program in North Carolina and it is run by the Durham County Department of Public Health. The Guilford County Commissioners did not want the county to be in charge of the program. So in secret meetings closed to the public, councilmembers and commissioners decided that the nonprofit organization One Step Further would run the program in Greensboro. City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson is the longtime executive director of One Step Further which has a budget of about $1.2 million a year. Adding a program that will cost about $600,000 a year would increase the budget of her nonprofit by about 50 percent.
Johnson was reportedly at the meeting where this was first discussed, not as the executive director of One Step Further, but as an at large member of the City Council.
Johnson recently briefed the City Council on the progress that was being made in negotiating a contract much as councilmembers brief the council on other City Council business. But in this case Johnson was briefing her fellow councilmembers, as the executive director of One Step Further.
Cure Violence is a program headquartered in Chicago that attempts to intervene and stop violent crime, particularly murders before they occur. It is known for hiring convicted felons and people who previously had gang associations to work on the streets. The organization makes a point of not working with local law enforcement.
From an email to Johnson’s City Council email account, which is a public record, it is evident that city and county attorneys are negotiating on behalf of One Step Further with Cure Violence in Chicago. The email forwarded to Johnson also went to both city and county attorneys and Susan Ayers who is the finance manager and grants administrator for One Step Further, but no attorney for One Step Further is listed as receiving a copy. Nor is any other member of the City Council listed as receiving the email.
It certainly appears that the city and county are offering legal services to One Step Further in negotiating a contract with Cure Violence.
Johnson in this case is also using her City of Greensboro email account to conduct her nonprofit business.
According to the experts at the North Carolina Institute of Government, because One Step Further is a nonprofit, the state laws concerning conflict of interest would not apply.
Again, does anybody else see a problem here?
Absolutely no visible push back or concern from the Board of Commissioners over giving $300,00 of County tax payer money to a program with a poor track record in it’s only place being used in the State. The running of this is being awarded in a secret meeting to an organization that has a Greensboro City Council member as it’s director and would have it’s budget increased by 50%. They make it a point to exclude cooperation with law enforcement. It’s going to be used in a small portion of the city. And they hire ex felons and gang members to work on the streets which raises the question of who oversees them. On top of all this it’s coming from a city with a crime rate that borders on anarchy.
“But it’s a non-profit.” Does that mean that City Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson doesn’t take a salary, benefits or expenses from it as Executive Director? That is one of the main questions that should be asked by the Commissioners before they hand over our money.