Youth nonprofit still spending millions after Thomas scandal

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The nonprofit organization that a D.C. councilman used to steal more than $353,000 said Monday it has taken steps to shore up its accounting practices as city leaders ponder changes at the agency that could include a complete restructuring.

The Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. became a flash point in the District after authorities revealed that former Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. had used the agency as a pass-through to corporations and nonprofits that he controlled. Thomas ultimately pocketed $353,500 intended for children.

But as the agency handed out $2.5 million in funding to 77 summer programs, a top official said CYITC is tracking every dollar.

"These are kind of the same protocols. They've just been enhanced," said Stephanie Crane, who oversees CYITC grants. "Every expense has to be substantiated."

The summer programs serve about 3,000 youth and include computer literacy seminars, foreign language courses and tennis lessons.

"We know that youth need positive summer experiences that will help keep their minds active while having fun, exercising, eating healthy meals and getting excited about their future," CYITC Vice President of External Affairs Ed Davies said.

CYITC funds the programs through a mix of tax dollars -- about $3 million this year -- and private donations.

For CYITC, the success of its summer programming may help define its future in the wake of the scandal that prompted the resignations of several staff members.SClBSClBA D.C. Council committee has said it was unlikely Thomas had managed to pull off the scheme "without the actions of [CYITC] staff," a finding that increased already-intense pressure for changes.SClBSClB"It's an agency in trouble, but there is good that can come out of this," Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham, who is leading the D.C. Council investigation, said ahead of the report's release. "Sending a different message is going to be important."

A senior official at a longtime grant recipient said she has already seen improvements.

"They've made it their priority so they can rebound from what happened," said Jesse Fowler, the program director for Fields of Dreams. "They are definitely keeping track of all the grantees."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner