Sheriff, county question Our Brothers’ Keepers
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. and the Milwaukee County Board have questioned the finances and performance of a fledgling organization that has received more than $100,000 in federal funds.
In a letter to block grant administrator Steven Mahan, Clarke questioned the validity of the City of Milwaukee’s decision to fund True Our Brothers’ Keepers Inc. and whether the money has actually reached the people the organization purports to serve.
Clarke said his questions arose after an August article in the Journal Sentinel about the group’s justice center, its finances and activities.
The center, 2128 N. 23rd St., was one of three neighborhood community justice centers that formed after the fatal beating of Charlie Young Jr. in 2002.
Its founder, the Rev. Maurice Lawrence, who pays himself a salary of $36,000 a year, runs the center out of a renovated duplex he owns.
Lawrence is pastor of the Milwaukee Family Church, 3031 N. Frederick Ave., the Wisconsin location for the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Lawrence could not be reached for comment.
True Our Brothers’ Keepers received federal block grants from the city of $50,000 in June 2003 and $50,000 in February. Lawrence also received $50,000 from the Potawatomi Foundation. But in July, Lawrence said the organization had just $8,000 and would have to lay off two staffers.
Clarke said that as a public safety official he has an interest in anti-gang and crime reduction efforts and wants to ensure that public money used for such efforts is spent effectively.
“What it boils down to for me is that someone needs to be able to confidently say whether or not this particular program – or any program – is actually working,” Clarke said. “As I said in the letter, it’s not enough to allow someone to anecdotally say, ‘We’re turning lives around,’ especially when there’s nothing to substantiate whether or not it’s true.”
Clarke’s letter questioned what the block grant office requires in performance evaluations and measurements, on-site inspections, what services the funds provided, and whom the program has helped.
He asked for all records relating to True Our Brothers’ Keepers.
Mahan said Tuesday he’s drafting a response to Clarke but did not disclose it.
The County Board also has raised questions about a proposal that would have given True Our Brothers’ Keepers $14,000 in federal funds through the county. A board committee recommended the funding, but questions arose at the full County Board about the group’s finances, said Supervisor Peggy West. The matter will go back to the committee Oct. 25.
Last month, True Our Brothers’ Keepers was awarded $12,500 as part of a $2.5 million federal initiative to combat gang violence, but the group has not yet received the money, said Melanie Fonder, a spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle.
She said the group’s recommended award was contingent on its completing the grant application. As of Tuesday, that had not been done. Fonder said officials will meet today to assess the group and its application. The funds are supposed to be used to provide educational and recreational services to youths, she said.
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