City trying to decide fate of Park Heights Corp.

February 01, 1991|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

The fate of the Park Heights Community Corp., recently shut down by the city after months of internal turmoil, will be determined in coming weeks by city officials, City Council members and community activists.

Robert W. Hearn, commissioner of the city Department of Housing and Community Development, cut off funding to the corporation on Jan. 18. In a letter to organization officials, Hearn said that infighting had rendered the group ineffective.

Hearn also ordered an audit of the corporation, and city State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms said he is looking into allegations of financial irregularities within the group.

The corporation received $215,000 annually from the city in federal community development block grant money.

Bill Toohey, spokesman for the city Department of Housing and Community Development, and City Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th, said the city has no intention of permanently withholding the $215,000 from the Park Heights community.

They said city officials, council members from the 4th and 5th districts, and community leaders will meet in coming weeks to determine whether to resurrect the Park Heights Community Corp. in its original or a restructured form or to replace it with a new organization.

Meanwhile, members of the group's board of directors protested the loss of funds by holding a recent demonstration outside City Hall. Steven Ferguson, president of the board, sent a protest letter to Hearn, in which he blamed most of the corporation's problems on its executive director, Isaiah C. Fletcher Sr.

"How can we effectively manage and provide direction to an executive director who has labeled us as snakes and insane, as well as, who refuses to carry out duties delegated to him from time to time by the board of directors?" wrote Ferguson.

Fletcher has accused one former board officer and one current board officer of financial dealings "unethical if not criminal." He said the board's actions against him were retaliation for his accusations.

"I've asked some embarrassing questions at board meetings," he said. "I ran into roadblocks trying to get financial accountability. I have rubbed some people the wrong way."

The corporation has offices at 3939 Reisterstown Road. It provides a wide range of community and social services. City officials said those services can be temporarily provided by other agencies, including the mayor's station in the area.

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