Southeast Neighborhood House was again the subject of controversy last week during an annual funding hearing conducted by the United Planning Organization.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Luke Moore headed the UPO panel that heard complaints from citizens, at least two of whom said local Anacostia residents did not make up the majority of the southeast House board of directors and that citizens had not been participating in board meetings.
The director of the organization, Laplois Ashfold, said Southeast House had recently undergone changes, including rewriting its bylaws to include better community representation.
The criticism of Southeast House comes less than a month after the organization's board of directors decided to keep the house operating after discovering a $112,000 deficit and at least two cases of alleged embezzlement.
Southeast Neighborhood House, which provides social services to the local community, including meals for the elderly and counseling for youths, has undergone a major reorganization aimed at improving its service to the community and eliminating its six-figure deficit.
Ashford, who joined the organization about a year ago, said in response to the heated criticism, "It's unfortunate that these people are attacking us now when we are improving the organization. They are taking us to task for things done in the past."
One community resident, Absalom Jordan, asked UPO to stop providing nearly $200,000 in funding until Southeast House had a majority of community residents on its board of directors. (Southeast House is requesting $264,752 in UPO funding for fiscal 1980, $2,500 more than last year.)
Ashford said a search for new board members is now under way. He said there are nine vacancies on the board and four vacancies on the community advisory committee.
The director of Southeast House explained that community organizations were going to receive mailed copies of candidate nomination procedures for residents interested in joining the Southeast House board of directors.
Earlier in the meeting, Ashford said 13 members of the Southeast House board, who had not been participating in meetings, were "purged" from membership on the board.
During one of the exchanges between Southeast House staff members and at least two disgruntled community residents, one staff member, Peb Ali, told a community resident who was complaining about the organization, "I have worked with you in the past. You know I get things done. If you don't have any faith in Southeast House, you should have faith in me.
You should know I would not get involved in any organization that was not about to do something."
The resident, snapped back, "Well, we have not gotten a chance in the past to speak out."
Another community resident charged that Southeast House was being run by Calvin Lockridge, a member of the D.C. school board, and that Lockridge was using the organization as a tool for elective office.
Lockridge came before the crowd and said it was ridiculous to think he had any control other than his single vote as a board member.
He also told the UPO panel that of 16 recent candidates for a youth counselor's position, only one community resident in Anacostia was qualified. "And when we held the selection interviews, that person didn't even show up."
Lockridge, who was addressing the concern of one of the UPO panel members, said Southeast House is making a strong attempt to hire community residents.
Judge Moore said the UPO panel would take the testimony and evidence of the meeting to the UPO board and make a recommendation concerning the continued funding of Southeast House.
Southeast House, which had a budget of more than a $1 million, is funded by UPO, the D.C. Department on Aging and United Way.