By Post Staff
Angry community supporters and civic leaders showed up this week to a meeting of the Youth Council of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to protest what they are calling the city’s arbitrary termination of federal funding, lacking in “transparency” and “due process,” to the George P. Scotlan Youth & Family Center, a provider of jobs, training and other programs for West Oakland youth for more than 40 years.
Scotlan, located at 1651 Adeline St. in Defremery Park, has lost a $175,000 contract, though it in good faith began its youth employment program, hired and is paying 20 youth in jobs that were supposed to be paid through that funding.
To date, five months after the city’s termination of Scotlan’s funding, there has been no effort by the city to meet with the agency to resolve the issues that led to the denial of funding for youth services in West Oakland.
“I know Scotlan, people over there have been denied a contract, denied money,” said Ben Tapscott, who has worked and coached in the area for 16 years. “I don’t know what’s responsible for the mess that took place last summer,” he said, but many kids, particularly Black and Brown, were denied the opportunity to work.”
At issue are allegations which Scotlan director Graves says were leveled by a former disgruntled employee. On the basis of these unspecified allegations, Scotlan’s contract was cancelled and not renewed. To date, there has never been a meeting with Scotlan or a hearing on the issues.
“I understand that there some questions about Scotlan,” Tapscott said. “That has been going on for five months. It shouldn’t take someone five or six months to get down to the bottom to it.”
David Glover, a member of the Oakland WIB and Executive Director of OCCUR, shared these concerns.
“There is a process that is not a process in terms of fairness,” he said. “There are accusations, things in the air, things that Scotlan has not been made aware of.” Scotlan is an agency with a “long track record of service and is in a position to do work right now. If there are accusers, they should be able to face the accusers.”
Glover expressed concerns for the lack of transparency and “level of integrity and due process.”
“I know there have been requests internally and externally to have Scotlan on the agenda, and those requests were not honored, ” he said. “Organizations trying to work with the City of Oakland need to feel that they will be treated fairly and honestly.”
“We don’t need (to wait) half a year to a full year,” he said. “Non-profit organizations are fragile and need to be made aware in real time of issues they need to correct.”
Part of the breakdown in process is that the City Council is making decisions that under federal law should originate from the WIB, said William “Bill” Patterson, member of the WIB and the East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors.
“We need to review the legal ramifications of what has been done and that your authority has been usurped,” he said. “None of us is interested in holding up any of the work of the WIB. Our people (in Oakland) need it too desperately.”
Scotlan’s Executive Director, Elder Matthew A. Graves, Jr., said that his agency has suffered punitive treatment prior to any findings.
“Being under investigation does not imply guilt,” he said. “If these charges are found to be improper, how are we to be made whole again?”
Underscoring the failure of due process, Graves said, “I still have not received a formal document from any agency of this city that states this is why your funding is being taken away.”
Responding to the speakers at the meeting, WIB Director John Bailey, said the investigation of allegations was being handled by the Office of the City Auditor.
“I cannot articulate the process at this time,” he said. “I cannot provide this body a timeframe. It has not been available to me. I cannot tell you what the next steps (will be). That information is not available to me.”
Because the Wednesday meeting of the WIB Youth Council lacked a quorum, another meeting will be scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving, Bailey said.