Peaceoholics FOIA Goes Nowhere
Figuring out what the Peaceoholics are doing for their money isn't getting any easier. Curious as to what the anti-gang group has done in return for the millions in District funds they've pulled down, in August, Amin Hassan Muslim submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that went nowhere. Muslim works for Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander as director of constituent services, but says he was acting independently.
The request was lobbed at the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). Muslim demanded "all DYRS documents related to any and all contracts, M.O.U.'s, or agreements entered into by DYRS and the Peaceoholics from January 1, 2002 thru January 1, 2011." The Fraternal Order of Police submitted a similar request to the Office of Chief Technology Officer regarding funds given to the group via MPD, and took the city to court before it got a response.
Not surprisingly, Muslim got zilch. "They're stonewalling," he says. Four days ago, Muslim was told in a letter that his inquiry came at the wrong time. The "requested records are exempt from FOIA's mandatory disclosure requirements because production of such records would interfere with Council investigations."
Muslim says the investigation they mention is simply an audit request submitted by his boss, and that it shouldn't interfere with a request to see contracts.
Incensed, he fired back an e-mail that forecasts a reckoning now that challenger Vincent Gray has trounced Mayor Adrian Fenty in the primary election:
While I appreciate your letter it is unfortunate that your agency appears to be more interested in suppressing information as opposed to restoring the public trust. I never thought that DYRS would be forthcoming since the material that is being sought will only highlight the mismanagement of public funds. It is sad that DYRS employees who pursued careers in the juvenile justice field with the best intentions have allowed themselves to buy into the idea that the Peaceoholics are to be protected at all cost. At some point I believe that a lot of careers will be adversely affected by a couple of people who made the decision for them that they should stonewall the public.
When or if that time comes, it'll be ugly. The impression some have of the Peaceoholics is that they're a shady organization that cashed in on a corrupt political regime, mercilessly sucking away public funds. The reality is a lot less titillating. The well-intentioned group simply gained the favor of the mayor by addressing a problem that's been daunting the city for awhile: juvenile crime. The problem is they've been given a pass when it comes to being watch-dogged. People like Muslim want to know what they're getting from the Peaceoholics for their tax dollars, and that's never been entirely clear.
When concerns arise about a government contractor, people expect quick concise answers. In this case, they didn't get them. District residents and politicians are likely to remember that.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery