D.C. Council candidates urge abandoning tainted trust

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,D.C. Council

The nonprofit robbed by a now-imprisoned D.C. Council member has struggled to win back donors.

In the last five months, the DC Children's Youth Investment Trust Corp., a grant-making nonprofit subsidized by the District, hasn't received any private donations.

"That would be zero at this point through private fundraising," the trust's executive director, Ed Davies, said during a Council hearing Thursday. The mayor's office has proposed $3 million for the trust for fiscal year 2014.

Former Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. pled guilty to directing money through the trust into nonprofit organizations under his control that he used to benefit himself.

The Washington Examiner reached out to D.C. Council at-large candidates, informed them of the lack of private fundraising and asked what they would do to improve the embattled nonprofit.

"One of the things that you can do is you can do oversight hearings and ask to see, 'What are the grants that you have made, and what do you have to show from those grants?' " said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Matthew Frumin. "You've got to watch constantly."

Patrick Mara said the city needed to find a new answer.

"We should start over. Right now, it's not getting any private money," he said. "The thing is completely blemished. We should plan and start something new."

Elissa Silverman, a policy analyst on leave from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, didn't go as far as Mara but expressed similar concerns about the trust.

"What is the point of having the trust if all the funding is D.C. government funding?" she asked.

She stopped short of suggesting the city should abandon the grant-making nonprofit.

Paul Zukerberg, a pro-marijuana attorney, said the trust should be abandoned.

"If there are no private funds coming in -- and I'm not surprised that there are no private funds coming it -- it doesn't seem like it's a viable option," he said.

He suggested bringing it under government control or directing government money to another nonprofit.

Perry Redd said, "If I'm on Council, I would do everything in my power to end that conflict of interest and even the appearance of that conflict."

Councilwoman Anita Bonds did not return requests for comment.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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