The program began with a clear purpose to train 60 people - 30 unemployed residents of Prince George's County and 30 serving time in state prisons - it construction skills and eventually get them a job on a project in the country.
It will end without fulfilling its promise, a program that either through bad luck or poor administration, or both, aroused the antagonism of some Prince George's residents and triggered a grand jury investigation into the county's training program for the hard-core unemployed.
The program, a product of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) which is run by the U.S. Department of Labor, was established late last year under a contract between the county and Capitol Building and Remodeling Co.
Today, 20 of the original 60 men are still involved in the project. Two training sites have been abandoned and serious questions have been raised by investigators about Capitol Building's handling of the operation.
More importantly for residents of the Clinton area in southern Prince George's County, a 12-year-old boy is dead, after the exconvict accused of killing him was brought into the Clinton area to serve as an instructor in this same CETA project.
Donald Alan Henley was found stabbed to death June 18, less than a mile from the Berger Mansion, a historic, though dilapidated, home in Clinton that was being remodeled during the training program.
The following day, Charles Milton Wantland, 40, who had been hired as a carpentry instructor for the program by Jack Jones, head of Capitol Building and Remodeling, was arrested and charged with Henley's murder.
Outraged residents of Clinton complained bitterly both to police and to County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. that the program should not have been started in their neighborhood without their knowledge.
They were also angered to learn that Wantland had been put in a supervisory position by Jones less than a month after his release from state prison where he had served six years of a 30-year sentence for second-degree murder.
Those revelations caused Kelly to suspend the program temporarily and spurred a county grand jury to open an investigation into all of the county's CETA programs. At present, the county is administering a variety of these programs at a cost of $13 million a total of $241,000 was allocated for the training project run by Capitol Building.
This rapid-fire series of events - the Henley killing, the arrest of Wantland, the suspension of the program and the initiation of the grand jury probe - provoked a continuing dispute as to who take responsibility for hiring Wantland.
Jones claimed that county personnel director Donald Weinberg was told about the prison record of the carpentry instructor.
"That's untrue," Weinberg said. "I personally did not know his record and I don't know his record and I don't think anyone else [in county government] did. He was presented to us as a carpentry instructor."
Grand jury investigators, however, found this dispute between Jones and Weinberg symptomatic of the county's general practice of loosely supervising CETA programs that it administers through private contractors.
A grand jury report issued last month after a three-month investigation listed four central criticisms of the county's handling of CETA programs.
They included the following:
Investigations of contractors who apply for CETA funds appears to be limited to the companys' financial status. This criticism appears to arise from the fact that the county did not check more carefully the training methods used by companies or the facilities and equipment available for training.
Contract monitoring is too infrequent, particularly during the early stages of a contract.
Contract monitoring reports are devoted only to assuring that the contractor is in compliance with federal reporting requirements, but do not ensure that the contractor is actually carrying out his end of the agreement.
CETA administrators are often more concerned with spending federal funds as fast as possible rather than providing effective, well thought out programs.
These criticisms were included in the final report of the county grand jury whose term expired last month. A new grand jury has since been sworn in and is expected to continue the investigation, concentrating, as their predecessors, did, on the CETA program run by Capitol Building.
This grand jury according to Assistant State's Attorney Edward O'Connell, will probably call Jones to testify. The grand jury may also call Jone's personnel director, Milton Gordon.
Gordon, whom Jones hired a year ago as personnel director for his firm, acted as the middleman between the county and Jones when the project was first being set up.
Gordon's role in the program, Weinberg said, was "to act as a liaison between ourselves and the corrections people and act as a counselor of the prisoners."
The whole experience has left Weinberg discourged. "I would try a program like this again," he said. "But I wish this one had turned out better. We never could have imagined that some of these things would have happened. We made mistakes and we'll know how to handle things better next time around."