Federal funds temporarily cut off for 'village' involved in forgery flap

August 01, 1996|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

A city "village center" under scrutiny for financial irregularities will be barred from receiving federal money until an independent accountant verifies that adequate controls are in place, a spokesman for Empower Baltimore Management Corp. said yesterday.

The village center's executive director, Leonard Jackson Jr., was found to have "improperly endorsed" a $6,500 check and was ordered to repay his bank, which refunded the money to Empower Baltimore's bank, said Michael Preston, spokesman for the corporation.

The village center, which began drafting sweeping policy changes after Jackson allegedly forged a letter and pocketed $6,500 in public funds, is one of six neighborhood groups created under Baltimore's empowerment zone project, a $100 million rebuilding effort funded by the federal government. Empower Baltimore oversees the project.

Jackson will resume his position heading the village center after the center's board compiles a personnel and policy manual outlining the limits of his power, village center spokesman Joe Studivant said yesterday. Such changes are expected after meetings scheduled for this week, he said.

Jackson has denied any wrongdoing. He could not be reached for comment.

"What occurred, occurred out of a loose structure," Studivant said, "so we want to make sure that the structure we have is tight and well-tuned. We want to have some codified, written policy that articulates the expectation of the [organization] with respect to financial management."

Studivant said he was confident that the village center could get back on track after the incidents that "derailed us from the essence of what this is supposed to be about."

Others were not sure that there would be changes.

"That board has a pattern of bad decision-making," said Jennifer L. Coates, who resigned as village center vice chair in mid-July after the Jackson revelations. "I have said that before, and I stand by that."

Studivant would not elaborate on how the center proposes to tighten control over its finances. An ad hoc committee is to meet with Diane Bell, president of Empower Baltimore, Wednesday to solidify changes, he said.

"I am really encouraged by the fact that everyone is working hard to make things come together," said Emma Middleton, who resigned as village center treasurer but remains on the board.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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