As funding for Hartford's non-profits continues to tighten, tough decisions need to be made as to who gets the money and who gets cut out. Hartford's City Council will have to be making such tough decisions soon.
Many organizations who have applied for funding will find themselves getting nothing.
Among such groups are the Connecticut Science Center, Inc, the Hartford Public Library, the Hartford Stage,the San Juan Center as well as others.
I made my first visit to the Connecticut Science Center this past Friday, and even at 10:00 AM, there were hundreds of school age children visiting the Center. Why the city would not do everything possible to work with and fund the Center is beyond me. I would venture to say that except for sporting events at the XL Center, the Connecticut Science Center is probably the number one draw bringing people into Hartford at this time.
I'm not sure how decisions are made as to who gets funded and who gets cut, but according to City Hall sources, much of the decision making is political and essentially no reporting is done to see if we are actually getting our money's worth out of the grants.
I'm still researching all of the grant applicants, over 70 in all, but a few interesting facts are popping up. Federally required reports, Form 990's, must be filed annually by all non-profits. These are essentially the "income tax" forms for 501c-3 and other non-profits.
One of the interesting form "990's" is from a group that had been in the news quite a bit over the past couple years.
The Ebony Horsewomen were put in the spotlight when they were trying to push through a plan to develop almost 300 acres of Keney Park for an Equestrian Center on public land. Many issues were raised about the project but one of the most interesting was the groups use of the City's horse stables off Vine Street in Keney Park.
The project happened to coincide with the re-instatement of the Hartford Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit. The Ebony Horsewomen were using the stables vacated when the Hartford Police disbanded the mounted unit several years ago. Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts apparently had a conversation with the Ebony Horsewomen's President Patricia Kelly regarding the need for the Horsewomen to vacate the stables.
Kelly refused and created a somewhat tenuous situation. Apparently Chief Roberts asked Kelly to provide him with information regarding her programs, the demographics the Ebony Horsewomen served and other information so that he could lead the charge to leave her programs intact and find an alternative for the mounted patrol.
According to Chief Roberts, despite repeated requests he received nothing. On a 1Hartford program where Kelly was our guest, I asked her about the Chief's claims and she disputed Chief Roberts version and claimed she had provided all of the information he requested and then some. She so strongly disputed the Chief's claims, she said that she would e-mail me everything she had sent to the Chief to prove her story.
To this day I have received nothing from her.
This points to a major problem with these grants.I would be naive to think that political pressure doesn't enter into the awarding of government money, locally, state level or national level. But on the other hand, even if the money is awarded as a "political" favor, shouldn't there be some accountability and an obligation to see that we are getting our money's worth in return?
Ok, so back to the form 990's. They are a great resource and only paint a small portion of the picture, but in many cases they raise more questions than they answer. This is exactly the case with the Ebony Horsewomen. I can't say whether their programs are worthwhile or a scam for someone to profit from a non-profit.
Take a look at their 990's and decide if you would be comfortable giving $10,000.00 of your own money to them without having a few questions answered.
In the 2008 Form 990 filed by the Ebony Horsewomen and signed by Patricia Kelly as President of the Board of Directors and CEO, she lists her compensation as $0, no compensation.
Then scroll down a little further to page 4 and look at the section for "Independent contractors paid over $100,000". In that section you will find a payment to "Diversified Equus Corp." for $108,584.00. A quick trip over to http://ct.gov/sots and search Concord to find out more about Diversified Equus Corp.
According to the Secretary of States Office, Diversified Equus is the company of Patricia and James Kelly and a 3rd party from Maryland. For a Board member of a non-profit to benefit from their "service" on that Board is both improper and highly unethical, and some would say criminal. Is that the case here? I wish I could say, but since Patricia Kelly has never provided the information to me that she had promised, I can only say it looks bad and questions should be asked before checks are cut.
In addition, Kelly was boarding horses in the stables for profit, according to sources, one of them who had actually boarded a horse there, the money was paid to Kelly on a monthly basis. Since no documents or information is available, it is unknown if that money benefited Kelly personally or was actually put back into programs.
990 Ebony Horsewomen
Below is the information from the Secretary of State's website:
|DIVERSIFIED EQUUS CORP.||0699463||1132R BLUE HILLS AVE., BLOOMFIELD, CT|
|Mailing Address:||Citizenship/State Inc:||Last Report Year:|
|Business Type:||Business Status:||Date Inc./Register:|
|Stock||Active||Dec 18, 2001|
|Name/Title:||Business Address:||Residence Address:|
|JAMES KELLY |
|NONE||1132R BLUE HILLS AVE., BLMFLD, CT|
|PATRICIA KELLY |
|337 VINE ST., HARTFORD, CT||1132R BLUE HILLS AVE., BLMFLD, CT|
|HEATHER R. LAWSON |
|NONE||1401 BLAIR MILL RD., SILVER SPRING, MD|
|IMPORTANT: There are more principals for this business that are not shown here.|
|Agent Name:||Agent Business Address:||Agent Residence Address:|
|TONYA A. LAWSON-DURHAM||1256 COTTAGE GROVE RD., BLMFLD, CT, 06002||25 WINCHESTER ST., HARTFORD, CT|
Next up on on the 990 list is a non-profit that applied for funding under the classification of "HOPWA", housing of persons with AIDS. A worthwhile classification addressing a much needed service in our City. But as with the Ebony Horsewomen, one of the non-profits receiving a proposed grant of over $70,000.00 raises some serious questions as to why it is being funded by the City of Hartford.
In pulling up the form 990 for the organization, Saint Philip House, I was immediately confused. I had heard of Saint Philip House, but other than that I knew very little about them.
The first question was raised by their address. Saint Philip house is located in Plainville. I'm not saying this is not an honorable operation, but why are we funding an operation in Plainville. I'm wondering how much CDBG money Hartford organizations receive from the Town of Plainville. The answer is most likely $0.00, nothing, zero.
But then, like I said before, the 990's are a great tool to answer some questions. And also like I said before, one of my City Hall sources said much of the process is influenced by politics rather than merit. So...... go to page 5 of the 990 and the answers become clearer.
The President of the Board of Director's for Saint Philip House is Jan Appeloff. For those that may not be all that familiar with the figures in Hartford politics, Appeloff is a member of the 6th District Democratic Town Committee and a huge supporter for Mayor Perez. Appeloff was also the driving force in the 6th District behind the failed attempts to re-elect former Democratic Town Chair Sean Arena. Appeloff's home has also been the headquarters for meetings held to chastise 6th District State Representative Hector Robles for his role in the downfall of Chairperson Arena.
With that being said, go down the list of Board members for Saint Philip House and right under Appeloff's listing as President you will find Ralph Arena listed as the Boards Treasurer. Yes Ralph Arena is the brother of former DTC Chairperson Sean Arena and another faithful Perez supporter.
Coincidence? It has to be, this is Hartford and nothing underhanded would happen here. I mean there has to be a logical explanation, why would we not grant the requests for funding for Hartford based organizations serving the needs for "HOPWA". There has to be a reason why we would underfund Hartford based organizations providing services on the streets of Hartford , while providing almost the full funding request to an orgainzation from Plainville.
Is it a political decision? Nah, can't be, tell me it isn't so. This is Hartford don't forget.
990 Saint Philip House
And finally for today, read the staff analysis for this program and tell me how you would vote.
"2008 financial statement presented, cannot ascertain current operational/financial capacity to execute proposed program. Budget and narrative contradictory. No historical data on success, business openings, business retention and growth due to program participation. No date presented to justify demand for proposed level of service; recommend partial funding".
End result, even after that review, is that the recommendation is to give the Spanish American Merchants Association $35,000.00 even though the application submitted is "contradictory.
Politics, no, please say it isn't so. End result, Spanish American Merchants Association- funded, Ebony Horsewomen-funded, Saint Philip House in Plainville-funded, Connecticut Science Center-rejected. It all seems to make sense.
More to come on this, but I hope the City Council does a little more due diligence before making their decisions.
Since the site I use to get the 990's is a subscription site and not available to the public, if you have a 990 you would like to see, let me know and I'll post it here. Just provide me with the legal name of the organization and I'll see what I can do.