For Peaceoholics, Lots of Money, Little Oversight How Adrian Fenty's favorite non-profit worked the system in D.C.

Peace at Any Cost: Founder Ron Moten and Jauhar Abraham say they keep D.C. kids safe.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

If there’s been a constant thread through Mayor Adrian Fenty’s term in office, it’s a mania for measuring performance with standards and statistics. From the Metropolitan Police Department to D.C. Public Schools to the city’s flock of social workers, every facet of city government is—in Fenty’s narrative, at least—subjected to rigorous evaluation. If the stats don’t look good, there’s hell to pay.

Every facet, that is, except one. When it comes to Peaceoholics, the Ward 8-based non-profit organization founded by ex-offenders that works with at-risk kids, the mayor simply goes on faith. Fenty has appeared at Peaceoholics’ go-go shows-turned-campaign rallies, praised them effusively to reporters, and talked them up before voters at mayoral debates. “I’ve met the kids, I mean, I don’t need any statistics,” Fenty told one community activist last month.

Now Fenty’s dogged support of the group, which says its work on the streets quashing gang beefs that would otherwise return D.C. to its days as the nation’s “murder capital,” is becoming one of the great mysteries of his struggling re-election campaign. In the past, no one in the Wilson Building questioned the group’s willingness and dedication to take on some of the city’s most troubled kids and entrenched gang warfare. But a review of contracts and tax documents detailing money Peaceoholics has gotten from the District during Fenty’s administration, as well as interviews with former Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services staffers, suggests the group may not be delivering the sustained results Fenty usually demands. Money made its way to Peaceoholics outside the usual channels, and without meaningful government oversight or detailed explanations of what services the District wants. Add in the very public ways the group’s co-founder, Ron Moten, has boosted Fenty’s re-election campaign, and the situation looks downright strange.

Peaceoholics has received more than $10 million in grants and loans since 2005 through DYRS, MPD, DS, D.C. Council earmarks, and other agencies—most of the money coming from no-bid contracts. The payments started before Fenty took office. But during Fenty’s term, a steady trickle of cash became a flood. By 2007, tax records show, Peaceoholics was doing so well that its two highest-paid employees, Moten and director Jauhar Abraham, were making around $100,000 each. (No federal tax records are available after 2007.) In 2008 and 2009, DYRS alone paid the group about $1 million a year. In exchange, they worked with an average of just 22 kids per month, according to the group’s own records.

This year, copies of city contracts show Peaceoholics got $500,000 in federal cash through the District’s Justice Grants Administration, which doesn’t need council approval. The contract lists only broad categories that Peaceoholics planned to spend the money on: $99,000 for personnel; $16,830 for “fringe benefits”; $11,000 on travel; $4,500 for supplies; $7,000 for equipment. A full $251,000 was earmarked for “contracts/consultants,” with no further explanation in the document. Under “other,” they listed $110,170 in expenses.

A source familiar with dealings within DYRS says the grant was part of a larger plan: Fenty wanted Peaceoholics to receive $900,000 for the year: “$500,000 from JGA, and $400,000 from DYRS.” Last month, Washington City Paper reported Fenty was pushing DYRS and the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Corporation to find the other $400,000. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the committee that oversees DYRS, says the administration dropped the effort once it became public.

Other years, money went to Peaceoholics without the group being named as the recipient. Documents obtained by the Fraternal Order of Police through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to City Paper show that in 2008, at least $100,000 from the Metropolitan Police Department went to two projects, Reaching Out to Provide Enlightenment and the Ward 4 Petworth “Rebuild the Village” Project, for which Peaceoholics served as fiduciary agents. Documents pertaining to those contracts give only vague breakdowns of how the money was spent or what work it paid for. Fenty’s office didn’t respond to requests for clarification.

Public documents give little indication that the rigorous standards Fenty holds city agencies to applied to Peaceoholics. In 2007, for instance, the organization took in about $2.2 million, according to Internal Revenue Service records—all but $34,008 of it in government contributions. It spent more than $1 million on “consultants,” without any disclosure of what that covered; $21,000 on bank charges; and $36,000 on telephones. (Other money went to staff training, youth field trips, supplies and youth stipends.) That same year, Peaceoholics pledged in one of its own progress reports to “continue to strengthen internal processes and procedures” and “forge collaborative relationships” with other D.C. agencies and non-profits.

Moten says Peaceoholics is performing a valuable service, one that’s hard to measure using conventional stats: “We’re doing something most people can’t do.”

But Fenty’s unhesitating praise, apparent willingness to give the group anything it asks for, and the lack of effective oversight into Peaceoholics’ activities have been a problem. “I think a tremendous burden was placed on them, and there was no way they could have lived up to the expectation,” says Kenny Barnes, who runs ROOT Inc., a group that works with families of homicide victims and frequently interacts with Peaceoholics.

The controversies swirling around Peaceoholics—poor accounting of their activities and a refusal to play well with others—were evident even before Fenty won the 2006 election.

By then, their reputation was rising. Moten had proven himself as someone who could handle a press conference as well as a gang fight.

When the group helped organize a sitdown between then-Mayor Anthony Williams and Ballou Senior High School kids after a student was killed, The Washington Post was there. When they brokered a truce between two rival gangs, a Post reporter wrote it up. If a teen was killed in the city, Moten was always ready to share his wisdom.

The DYRS brass saw potential, one former official says. “They were activists in the field,” the official explains. “They always had kids around them. They always traveled with delinquent kids. They would provide us with good information.”

But according to several DYRS sources and another contractor familiar with Peaceoholics, the organization lacked the things resilient non-profits need. “They had zero infrastructure,” says the former official. “They didn’t have their own organization… Ultimately, I’d like them to stand on their own. But they just couldn’t.”

They needed a crash course on all the boring stuff every 501(c)(3) must do to succeed—grant writing, accountability, and staff development. So city officials encouraged Peaceoholics to work through its organizational issues with the national non-profit Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), based in Harrisburg, Pa. Moten and Abraham initially agreed, and YAP helped Peaceoholics win a DYRS grant. Moten presented himself as a charismatic charmer with deep connections—the kind of guy YAP wanted to work with, says one former YAP staffer. But after the grant was awarded, the relationship quickly soured. “When we started working with them on the program, we realized the model wouldn’t work,” Moten says. “They didn’t really understand D.C.”

That wasn’t the issue, says the YAP staffer, noting that their collaboration never got past those initial meetings. “They wanted to kind of fly without strings,” the staffer says. “It was at the early stages that they sort of bailed on us. I never got any glimpse as to how they managed their money.”

After Fenty became mayor, Peaceoholics didn’t need to worry about that. Peaceoholics had something few non-profits had with Fenty: a history. Moten and Abraham say their relationship with the mayor grew out of a mutual respect. Like many on the D.C. Council, Fenty frequently called on them to assist in settling gang tensions in Ward 4 during his tenure.

But Abraham says he never lobbied Fenty for any no-bid contracts. “I never would have that conversation with the mayor,” he says. “It’s disrespectful.” He does admit their relationship is closer than most. When does he talk to Fenty? “Whenever I need to.” Moten says he and Fenty went to junior high together, but hadn’t known each other then, and still aren’t particularly close. “If we talk, we talk about stuff for the city... We’re not friends,” he says. “I’ve never been over to his house. He’s never been over to my house.”

Still, Fenty started pushing for the group to get funding, former DYRS staffers say, and Attorney General Peter Nickles joined in.

“They so much had the mayor’s ear and Peter’s ear,” recalls one former agency official. “Pressure went way up.” Top DYRS officials—including then-Director Vinny Schiraldi—resisted handing Peaceoholics easy money.

During one meeting, former staffers say Nickles ordered Schiraldi to give Peaceoholics a no-bid contract, saying the order came from Fenty. It had to be done. “[DYRS staffers] thought they were full of shit, that they were just political puffers—that they were getting a grant not because of their work, but because they were loud,” one former agency employee says. “They were wired to the Fenty administration.” (Nickles says the conversation “never happened” that way, and he “never advocated for a no-bid contract” for Peaceoholics.)

As the money piled up, the former DYRS officials say, Peaceoholics began to demand that they be responsible for fewer and fewer kids. The work they did was sloppy. Several sources who worked with them recall a curriculum for incarcerated youths filled with typos, and a life-skills program at a middle school that never actually materialized.

“Even though they have that street-level thing going, that can only take you so far,” says a District social worker. “You are dealing with kids with serious mental illness, and serious family issues—multiple layers of trauma. They can’t do the clinical stuff.”

A 2008 DYRS study showed only 40 percent of Peaceoholics’ kids completed their program, and 37 percent of their kids went on to commit more crimes. Asked about the report, Fenty says he is unfamiliar with it. “Most of our children are successful,” Moten says. “We don’t have specifics. I think we do [have specifics] because we’ve given them to people before. I’m sure we do.”

Moten adds: “In three-and-a-half years, nobody has been a victim of homicide or committed a homicide while they were in our program. I don’t know any other program that can say that.” Moten isn’t counting the defendants charged with murdering Shaw Middle School principal Brian Betts. All three had spent time at a Peaceoholics retreat.

Some of Moten’s work on another high-profile case, the South Capitol Street drive-by shootings that left four dead in March, isn’t going over so well. A campaign song Moten has produced for Fenty, “Don’t Leave Us, Fenty,” praises the mayor for his handling of the drive-by, and Peaceoholics have printed up memorial T-shirts to try to raise awareness of the incident.

But one victim’s mother isn’t impressed. “There’s typos on everything they do,” says Nardyne Jefferies, whose 16-year-old daugher Brishell Jones was killed in the drive-by. She says using the shooting for Fenty’s political purposes is “disrespectful” and “insensitive.”

Which only underscores how the blind devotion the mayor has shown Peaceoholics has sometimes led the group astray. If not for Moten’s involvement in the campaign, the organization might not have become the lightning rod it’s turned into this year. And former city officials think Peaceoholics might have done better with a little tough love. Without accountability, the group never had to improve its work.

“At some point, it switched from a sincere effort to help young people and it turned into a money grab,” explains one former DYRS staffer. “They never stopped being hustlers. They found a legal and more lucrative hustle. I believe when they started, they were absolutely sincere. But I do believe it turned into a hustle.”

Our Readers Say

interesting article.
Wasn't one or more of the alleged murder suspects involved in the S. Cap. St., and Alabama Avenue homicides under the tutelage of Peaceoholics?
Just a quick note to let your reads know that there is an alternative to the peaceoholics style. It's the HOPE Project a program and organization changing the lives of socially and economically disadvantaged young people through training and professional development. see the wash post article...

We can do better...Vote!!!

Until Friday, voters can cast their ballots only at one site

-- One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, N.W.

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 4, four additional early voting locations will open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are:

* Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Avenue, NW

* Hine Junior High School, 335 8th Street, SE

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Early voting centers will not be open on Sunday, Sept. 5 or Sunday, Sept. 12.

Voting locations WILL be open on Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day).


You don't have to wait until Sept. 14, DO IT NOW, get it out of the way.
Very well done. Got in the informative weeds on this one. Sounds like these guys can't kick the hustle culture. This mission (like many others) has become a circular track. Seems like Peaceaholics gave Fenty the street cred and populist type of appeal that he so yearns for but will never attain.
Thank you City Paper for doing this article. I am still hopeful that we will be able to block the 13 unit facility they are trying to put at 1300 Congress St. SE, just a block from where I live. How would you like 13 peaceoholics living next to you? Don't let the name fool you.
These authors have forgotten another group that is subject to rigorous evaluation by the Fenty Administration- his frat buddies. What about the no-bid contracts given to Karim and Skinner, or the shady fire-truck donation by Jannarone and Skinner, or the landscape contracts to Lomax, or the funding for Fenty's former Frat party last year. What about the stats and cost overruns for the Summer Youth Program? There are lots of other things that Fenty has not demanded or at least made public, that would indicate him being a man who thrives off of results and accountability. If this was true, none of the above would have happened.
So where does this push the "Undecided" meter?
Great article, WAPO your turn!!!!
Rend and Jason, thanks for an informative and sincere article. The best "expose" is the one that does its best to give a clearly troubled target a fair shake. No better example of this in any article I have read recently than your closing quote: "I believe when they started, they were absolutely sincere. But I do believe it turned into a hustle"

That said, we still do not have an answer to the elephant in the room.

WHY THE FUCK DOES FENTY CARE SO MUCH ABOUT MOTEN AND PEACEOHOLICS? Beyond Moten's campaign "support" (which seems to hurt more than it helps), what does Fenty know about Peaceoholics that no one else does and that makes him support them so much?
"The controversies swirling around Peaceoholics — poor accounting of their activities and a refusal to play well with others...". Gee, who does THAT sound like? Emperor Adrian and his Thug-in-Chief Ron; birds of a feather.

And Consigliere "Wooden" Nickles' denial of his illegal and unethical strong-arm tactics on the Emperor Prince's behalf? Yeah, right.... If you believe Peter, I've got an apartment at the Lansburgh to sell you, that I swear he lives in. (There's more exposure of that dishonesty today via DCWatch and WeLoveDC.)

Finally, to Mr. Bigglesworth: I suggest that the real answer may lie not in what Fenty knows about Peaceoholics, but in what Moten, et al., know about - and "have on" - Fenty.
So you talk about Motten and his grammar but in your own article of criticism you bring a typo to the table? “…whose 16-year-old daughter Brishell Jones was killed… I don't know if you guys have yet but please just endorse Gray so everyone knows where you stand in this campaign.
Oh, dear.

I think "Facts" believes that should read, "...who's 16-year-old daughter..."

And Facts cannot correctly retype Moten's name after an article and comments list that correctly spells it about 50 times for him.

Facts, you an editor at Peaceoholics?

omg - cracking up @Trulee Pist
DC Street Chronicles: Do you remember Mr. Mo running with Cease Fire before Peaceoholics?
All those comments are cool. Glad to see we are engaged. Well clearly Lex Luthor aka Mayor Fenty is off on some BS. Moten is just another corrupt brotha from the hood. It is said that Luthor beats his wife and smokes weed. I don't care. I do care about blatant cronyism. Local high schools have new ball fields and dilapidated outdated buildings. Brilliant strategy.
I predict that Lex will not go away quietly. Be on the lookout for voter fraud.
Omar and Sinclaire were piss poor Negroes with master's degrees from HU until Lex made them rich. Just imagine, Lex gave a buddy an engineering license after he failed the licensing exam 7 times. He based his decision on what ? Eminence. WTF!!!!
So Peaceaholics is just another example of Lex seeing what we can not.
V Gray is superman in this case. So it's lights out for Lex and his band of flunkies.
Good fucking riddance !!!!!!!!!!
Even in a suit, he looks like he's on his way to court.

BTW: Jason, any specifics on what the fringe benefits were?
Whatever that skeleton is in Fenty's closet, it must have the ability to stand up and walk if the door is opened. To be in the political fight of his life and not to be able to step away from the association, it must be a doozie. No matter how stupid it makes him look and no matter how negatively it impacts his campaign, he can't break free, can't speak ill of Moten and crew and must always find a way to get money for him. That's heavy!
Question for Rend & Jason --
You refer to "tax records," and note that no federal tax records are available after 2007. Are you referring to the IRS' Form 990? Are you saying that you could find no 990s for Peaceaholics after 2007? Curious ...
Marina, I obviously did not write the article and cannot speak for the authors, but I've done similar research on Peaceoholics and found that Form 990s are not available online for them after 2007. Links to all the docs are available here:

Peachoholics = R.I.C.O. Just a matter of time before the FEDS come knocking on doors.

I can't understand why the District Government continued to fund this CONglomerate with taxpayers money when the Peaceoholics has failed to file federal tax forms for years 2008 and 2009.

Yet, in 2010 DC is still giving "ATM" advances to the Peaceholics. "This year, copies of city contracts show Peaceoholics got $500,000 in federal cash through the District’s Justice Grants Administration..."

By the way, did you notice that the Peaceoholics filed its 2007 tax return in May 2009?

The recidivism figures cited by Moten in videoclip doesn't correspond with the recidivism stats cited in this article.

"A 2008 DYRS study showed only 40 percent of Peaceoholics’ kids completed their program, and 37 percent of their kids went on to commit more crimes. Asked about the report, Fenty says he is unfamiliar with it. “Most of our children are successful,” Moten says. “We don’t have specifics. I think we do [have specifics] because we’ve given them to people before. I’m sure we do.”
Councilmember Yvette Alexander requested a financial audit of the Peaceoholics by Deborah Nickols on August 23rd. Councilmember Alexander has requested that the preliminary findings of the audit be submitted to her office by the close of business on September 3, 2010. Should be interesting.

Great article and comments. One of the individuals charged in the mass murders on March 30th had absconded from a group home run by Peacoholics. Ron Moten is using the murders of these children to campaign for Adrian Fenty. If anyone supports his method please try to step into my friend Nardyne Jefferies shoes. Her beautiful daughter, her only child, Bri is dead. Can Ron Moten and all involved imagine the additional pain and outrage this causes Bri's mom, grandparents, aunt, family and friends? I watched Mr. Moten politicize Bri's funeral and I watched our mayor show up right before that funeral started and walk through that church shaking as many hands as possible and then leave. He announced his re-election bid less than 48 hours later. I guess we should have predicted where they would go with this in the campaign. Ron Moten has stated that these murders could have been prevented if the council had not cut his funding because Peacoholics had to eliminate two staff positions of individuals who had been assigned to work in that neighborhood. Really. What about all of the murders over the past few years involving violent repeat offenders put back into the community via DYRS to be monitored by community groups including the Peacoholics? We want an independent investigation of all of this. And, for my friend and her family's sake I want Ron Moten to do something that he has never done before. I want him to shut the hell up.
i dont want peaceoholics in my area i dont see any good these guys have done with all the money given, the kids the calim to be helping are still out their killing, robbing and selling drugs
Isn't it obvious that DC Taxpayer cash if being filtered through these guys to the streets. Essentially a "we'll pay you not to fight" scheme?

I can't wait to see what Councilmember Alexander turns over.
It is APPALLING to for Ron Moten use the anguish of grieving paents of the March 30 Massacre for his own policial agenda. Moten is a loud-mouth, low-life, disrespectul, shameful, bad dressing, thug with the "short man" complex.

Where was Peaceoholics the 9 days prior to the March 30 Massacre when Sanquan Carter, Orlando Cater and Nathaniel Simms gunned down Jordan Howe and wounded 2 the night of March 22, 2010. Sanquan Carter was under the supervision of Peaceaholics. Did you overlook this fact, "Slug Ron"?
@1intheKnow: I've had the same thought, but am trying to give hizzoner the "benefit of the doubt" ... and honestly, until the skeleton is known, I won't be so crass as to infer supposition as truth. EITHER the mayor actually likes Moten and his crew or, as you say, Moten and his crew own the mayor. Either way, no teary-eyed wife can absolve Fenty of this arrow in his heel.
Like said before......THUGS OF A FEATHER.....FLOCK TOGETHER!
DC please do not be fooled! Please do not drink the kool aid!

Adrian Fenty operation is call........GANGSTER MANAGEMENT!

Those that are on the voting fence, this excellent article should
be the proof in the pudding!

Vote Vince Gray!
Doesn't Tommy Wells oversee DYRS? Why didn't Wells call for an oversight hearing? Why was there no attempt at oversight from him at all?
Why didn't Tommy Wells get involved in this?? They didn't even mention that Tommy Wells oversees Human Services Committee which oversees DYRS and Peaceoholics. He came out this week to say the buck stopped with him when he didn't allow $400,000 to go to Peaceoholics, but what about the other $10 million they've received while he was Chair??
I posed that very question to Tommy Wells, he told me that he stopped all funding under this purview, but that the mayor has found other means to get Moten and the Peace acrap oholics more funding. I'm sure I still have that email somewhere.
Brian: If it wasn't for Tommy Wells discovering the mayor's attempt to give Peacoholics $400,000, that money would have probably gone to them.

But the group still got $500,000 this year--that's from the one JGA grant that we know of.
It should also be noted that the Peaceoholics $4.4 million loan to provide housing for at-risk kids went through the D.C. Council. No councilmember raised an objection and it passed. When I asked Vincent Gray about this deal, he said he still did not object to Peaceoholics getting into the group home business.
@ Cherkis

are you "attempting" to separate WELLS from the crime, because it looks as if his stopping the payment of $400k was more peacocking, a political gesture than a PRINCIPLED/ethical decision! Why start now at that miniscule amount in comparison to $10 MILLION.........

Wells is just as dirty as the rest of em and I do believe that once Fenty loses and is relegated to "working class", then heads shall roll! Your excuse making is indicative of the play taking place, too many white hands involved to lower the hammer, that's why Moten and the peaceaholics are a valuable piece to this ridiculous puzzle!
Geez, didn't you guys read DeBonis's coverage of the DPR contracting scandal? Or of the Sosua firetruck giveaway? This isn't an anomaly -- it's business as usual where Fenty's friends are concerned. This government operates on relationships and spin -- not stats and results.

"He meets with the guys at nighttime," said Fenty booster Ron Moten, co-founder of the anti-crime group Peaceoholics.

Another key issue undecided voters want to know about is whether contracts to friends of Adrian Fenty were legal. We searched and found testimony in a TOWNHALL oversight hearing where DC Councilman David Catania provided a reading of Federal law to the Fenty administration's City Administrator, Neil Albert. Here's an excerpt 'unedited' of what we found from the website with 'NO SPIN' for those who wants answers. YOU DECIDE! Pass it on.

Ron Moten is just low-hanging fruit. Does Tyrone Parker's Alliance of Concerned Men do a better job and have better oversight for their work in gang intervention?
The peaceoholics are are so busy trying to get fenty re-elected cause they know that when he looses, the well runs dry. These guys are going to finally have to get a real job. No more of this bullshit about settling beefs within the community. I LEARNED THAT RON'S OLDER BROTHER TOOK THE FALLS FOR FENTY BACK IN THE DAY; that is why fenty is so up the peaceoholics ass. I am so looking forward to 9/14/2010; fenty will be out, the peaceoholics will be out, skinner will be out and every other unqualified bastard that fenty is pumping up with my tax dollars will be out.
One does have to wonder why the Peaceoholics/Ron Moten is screaming like a greased pig about being audited. If you are doing your job and spending the taxpayer dollars as they should be spent then what is the big deal? What Ron Moten aka ex-felon drug dealer should be saying is "bring it on".
Fenty has my vote. And yes I'm in ward 8.(Where they say we ain't backing him.) I love what he's done for DC. I've never felt safer being in these streets. I'm not saying I support his decision with the peaceaholics, but they have stepped in to stop neighborhood rivalries. In closing, DC let's give him more time. He's done a lot for us. Check out if u dont know. Vincent Gray isn't our answer, he's gonna be DC's version of George Bush. U will be disappointed if he's elected

Violation of FEDERAL LAWS?
Whites gave blacks a chance to see what they would do with DC and what a damn mess they made of it.
They abuse their kids and others and abuse their own race.

The blacks in DC have always been messing around with money and messed up way before Fenty became mayor, just look at Barry.

Gray is more than a form of going backwards, it's tragedy.
White folks and very sweet and nice black folks run from DC for your lives and for the sake of your kids lives.
I think this article is bogus, I am a youth of peaceoholics and I am certain of their work, devotion, and dedication. My father past away in 2008 and since then they have been supportive and committed to helping me acheive higher!!!

Now those are some facts!!!!!

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