Part 4: Charges of cronyism
Beyond mismanagement, many have questioned the objectivity of the referral process. Confidential documents obtained by ABC 7 News show that caseworkers and family members repeatedly requested one particular provider, but according to interviews with that provider, the youths were not sent there.
Meanwhile, another organization, which had never gotten a city contract for mentoring before, received more referrals for it than almost any other group.
In addition to cronyism, there were allegations of fraud. Amber Kelsey had a mentor try to bribe her with a new pair of sneakers to sign the attendance sheet instead of mentoring her, according to her grandmother.
In another case, a DYRS employee directed youths to a particular nonprofit, in exchange for promised kickbacks from that provider, according to a source close to both parties. The source spoke under the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution. Records show the nonprofit in question had significant problems with documentation.
Inspections of case files also raised red flags. At least one contained a tutoring plan completed before the youth’s first day of services, creating “concern about the documents validity,” a report reads. Another provider had days of services occurring before the kids even got to the program.
Files kept by the Alliance of Concerned Men “contained repeated notes from week to week with outdated content…It was clear that these notes were simply 'cut and paste' and were not specific to the week reported.”
At one point, most of the nonprofit’s files also did not have any youth sign-in sheets, to show they received services. The organization’s director, Tyrone Parker, referred our questions to DYRS.
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.