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Correction to This Article
-- A caption in the April 6 Metro section misidentified a person in a photo with an article about Peaceoholics and donated rescue equipment. Featured in the photo was the Rev. George Holmes of First Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in the District. Ronald Moten of Peaceoholics was in the background.

Gift to Dominican Town Puts Spotlight on D.C. Nonprofit

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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 6, 2009

Ever since he was a kid mowing lawns and shoveling snow, Ronald Moten has known how to hustle.

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"I was always the guy who went and got the money," said Moten, a onetime teenage drug dealer who runs a District nonprofit group called Peaceoholics that works with at-risk youths -- and recently tried to help the city donate a firetruck and ambulance to a town in the Dominican Republic.

For days, that seeming disconnect -- why would Peaceoholics be involved in such a donation? -- has been the subject of questions and consternation as members of the D.C. Council have sought answers from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration.

Attorney General Peter Nickles noted that the donation involved outdated equipment originally purchased for $316,027, and he described the market value as "minimal." He also said the city has donated surplus property to nonprofit groups and foreign countries before.

The flap has drawn attention to the dizzying growth of Peaceoholics and to Moten, 39, the group's chief operations officer and a go-to man for the mayor.

In four years, the group has become a multimillion-dollar operation with 70 full- and part-time workers and consultants, including Moten's father and son. Much of the funding in those four years has come from city contracts and grants totaling $7.6 million. Moten's salary is $111,108, up from the $42,930 in 2005, when the nonprofit had $341,093 in contributions, according to public tax filings.

Fenty (D) said the city's support of the nonprofit is well worth it. "It's such a small fraction of our budget," he said. "They get us the bang for the buck."

The group, co-founded by Moten and another social activist, Jauhar Abraham, 41, boasts of breaking up gangs, keeping countless youths from returning to jail and helping 52 young people make it to college.

City officials and others often go to Peaceoholics for help -- to counsel public school students, to develop 32 units of affordable housing in a $4.4 million deal, to help get a used firetruck and ambulance to a town in the Dominican Republic.

Under questioning from council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) at a hearing last week, Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin said he was recently made aware of the donation and a visit this year by fire and other government officials to determine the town's need for the equipment. But Mendelson noted that Rubin provided a March 4 report on travel expenses, showing that a deputy chief's six-day trip cost $810.

Nickles said in a report Friday that he found no wrongdoing. But Mendelson and council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) have asked the inspector general to investigate.

Things got so heated that Moten returned the equipment, which had gotten as far as Miami, to the District last week. A council oversight hearing is scheduled for today.

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