Jim Graham ends effort to join Youth Trust board

Graham is no longer keen on joining the Children and Youth Investment Trust board. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

D.C. Council member Jim Graham has abruptly dropped his bid to join the board of a government-controlled youth funding organization Thursday, saying his “point has been made.”

Graham sent an e-mail to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) withdrawing his earlier request to be appointed to a nonvoting seat on the board overseeing the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. Mendelson had previously assented to the request, but the move generated objections from youth advocates, board chair Robert C. Bobb, and even Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who called Mendelson Wednesday to register concerns.

The CYITC was the group used by former council member Harry Thomas Jr. to funnel $353,000 in taxpayer funds into his own pocket. Graham, chair of the council’s human services committee, used the post to investigate the Thomas fraud, and said his desire to be on the board was rooted in a need to more closely oversee the group’s operations.

But the optics of having an elected official among those directing the group after another elected official used it to steal was objectionable for those who believe that the CYITC needs less political meddling instead of more.

Graham said in his e-mail to Mendelson that he has gotten information he’d previously requested from the group since announcing his intention to join the board. “I think the point has been made without my addition to the Board,” he wrote.

The full e-mail:

Mr. Chairman,

Please withdraw from consideration my name as a nonvoting, ex officio member of the CYITC Board.

My purpose is seeking this, was to attempt to insure that relevant information relating to the CYITC expenditures of public funds was made available to eth committee. Considering that nearly all of the CYITC funds are public dollars, it is obviously important that we have access to that information.

It was our Committee investigation last year that made public a number of serious problems relating to the very long delayed FY2010 audit (fiscal year ending September 30, 2010). We have since then been repeatedly promised that audit, but yet it has not arrived. We were told it would be before the CYITC board on October 1 and to us shortly thereafter.

We are now again promised review in the very near future of the FY2010 audit. I am further assured that the long delayed work on the FY11 and FY12 audits has commenced or will commence shortly.

Information from the CYITC that we had requested on other issues some 90 days ago, was received this past Friday.

I think the point has been made without my addition to the Board. I do continue to encourage you to select the council appointees, an action that was not taken by your predecessor.

In terms of the structure of the CYITC, I continue to believe—as reflected in my Committee’s investigative report last year—that it needs a new organization. At present what we have is a DC government agency with the entire board appointed by and accountable to elected officials, that also happens to have a 501(c)(3). I hope you will take steps to activate the Report recommendation that a task force of entirely nongovernment persons be established to review and report on organization.

At our upcoming oversight of the CYITC and its Board, we will again inquire into the effectiveness of the agency in raising private and philanthropic donations. As yoyo know, in the past several years, this nonprofit has raised very few dollars from its development efforts. AT the time of our oversight hearing, I am also hopeful that we will have all the financial information we need in order to conduct effective review of taxpayer spending by the CYITC.

Again, thank you for your consideration.

Best Councilmember Jim Graham

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · January 24, 2013