Seattle Urban League Shuts Down Controversial Minority Business Program Amidst Scandal, Financial Crisis
The Seattle Schools financial scandal that implicated minority small business owners and the Seattle Urban League, resulting in the dismissal of Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson seems to have quieted down.
The media has turned their attention to SPS’s interim Super. Susan Enfield’s efforts to regain public trust and whip the district into shape on all fronts- particularly those with potential scandals of their own- everyone is trying to figure out if Enfield is right for the job. With no replacement prospects on the immediate horizon, many (but certainly not all) are careful not to question too hard for fear of losing Seattle’s bid to renew and double the Families and Education Levy in November.
The school district seems to have found a way to weather this storm intact, but not everyone has been that lucky- and by lucky I mean “too big to fail.”
The Seattle Urban League was implicated in the fiasco when the State Auditor released a report that in part, cast doubt on the validity and appropriateness of contracts awarded to the UL by SPS, saying the public benefit was questionable- i.e. the UL should have never had contracts in the first place.
Under interim CEO Tony Benjamin, who also headed the UL’s Contract Development and Competitiveness Center, the department responsible for fulfilling the SPS contracts, the UL denied any wrong doing, saying the District signed off on the the contracts and the UL met the requirements outlined.
After a press conference to reiterate those same talking points, the UL stopped talking publicly, likely in an effort to push the media to move on and to shore up their support (and the confidence of other funders).
Nevertheless, things have only gotten worse for the Urban League.
The specifics may not be public, but it’s clear the UL is in financial crisis having lost substantial contracts with SPS, the City of Seattle and others.
Now comes word the UL Board of Directors has shut down the Contractor Development and Competitiveness Center altogether and laid off staff; there is even a persistent rumor that interim CEO and President Tony Benjamin- once considered a front-runner for the job- has also been dismissed.
It’s a devastating blow to the UL legacy.
This latest action means only the Housing and Education departments remain.
The Urban League has a contract with WSDOT; according to Ann Briggs (Communications, State of Wa.) that contract is what is known as a “Task Order Agreement” which was created in January 2011. The TOA has a spending limit of up to $250,000 but was not a guarantee of work; the WSDOT could spend up to $250k with the UL but isn’t obligated to.
The TOA included funds for disadvantaged businesses and the UL’s Pathway’s program( which is under the CDCC). No work has been done by the UL under the current TOA and therefore no money paid to them by WSDOT. Briggs also stated WSDOT received notification from the Urban League on April 4th 2011 the UL had “ceased operations on April 1, 2011.”
I tried calling CDCC, but the department is no longer listed. Tony Benjamin could not be reached for comment.
Seattle may not have an Urban League for long.