Youth Pride Inc. received a $35,000 job training grant last May from the District's anti-poverty agency and went out of business in less than three months without performing any of the work or returning the money, according to the officials who disbursed the money.
The United Planning Organization, feeling pressure to quickly train and place youngsters or return several hundred thousand dollars to the city government, gave the money to Youth Pride based primarily on a five-paragraph "letter of intent." Normally, a more detailed contract proposal is required, according to UPO officials.
The letter stipulated that about 56 persons were supposed to be trained in computer science by Sept. 30, but before then, Youth Pride went out of business.
"Professionally I've been duped and the agency has been duped," said Frank H. Hollis, acting executive director of UPO. "I feel like I've been left holding the bag, and I look bad. I'm not comfortable about it."
Hollis said that he and UPO lawyers cannot find Youth Pride's executive director, Mary Treadwell, to get their money back. "We are due and owed $35,000," Hollis said.
Treadwell is listed in the District of Columbia telephone book."I haven't talked to UPO about that and I think it's proper to do that before I talk to you," Treadwell said in a telephone interview this week. Asked if she would talk to UPO officials, she repeated the statement. She declined further comment.
Treadwell has been one of the targets of a 2 1/2-year-old federal grand jury investigation into published allegations that she and two other officials of a real estate spinoff of Youth Pride stole, misappropriated or diverted $600,000 from the federal government and low-income tenants at the Clifton Terrace Apartments in Northwest Washington. Treadwell has denied any wrongdoing.
Youth Pride, a self-help organization founded in 1967 by Treadwell and her former husband, Mayor Marion Barry and others, received more than $20 million in federal job training funds before closing last year amid funding reductions and the investigation. Prosecutors have informed Barry, who severed all ties with the organization several years ago, that he is not a target of the grand jury investigation.
Youth Pride had long been one of the city's most celebrated self-help organizations with a reputation as one of the few available job training agencies for hard-core unemployed youth in the city.
UPO was one of the first organizations to help pump federal funds into Youth Pride, but in recent years had no financial relationship with the organization.
Hollis said he decided to renew UPO's relationship with Treadwell last year because his agency was under pressure from one of its principal sources of funding, the D.C. Department of Employment Services, to quickly train and place some people or return several hundred thousand dollars.
Becase of the rush, Hollis said, UPO signed a one-page "letter of intent" with Treadwell last May 28, and he promptly advanced the full $35,000 to Youth Pride.
Hollis said he made the complete advance as part of a suitable concession to Treadwell, who during verbal discussions about the agreement had asked much more but eventually settled for less.
"Mary seemed like she was ready to do the training; she was eager," Hollis said. "We had no real occasion to suspect anything."
Hollis said he was aware at the time that Treadwell and her organization were under a federal grand jury investigation, but felt that was not an encumbrance since the investigation then was 1 1/2 years old and "they hadn't charged them with anything." Beyond that, UPO had always had good relations with Treadwell and Youth Pride, he said.
Hollis said city employment officials encouraged him to go ahead with a contract with Treadwell, and that he was under the impression that the city's employment services department was still working with her.
However, employment services officials said yesterday that they ceased funding Youth Pride in 1980. Rudolph Von Slaughter, then the head of the section that dealt with UPO contracts and the principal city representative Hollis said he dealt with, said this week that he has no recollection of conversations with Hollis about Youth Pride and does not believe he recommended that organization.
Hollis said he began to get worried shortly after signing the letter of intent.
On a number of occasions before Sept. 30, he said, he tried unsuccessfully to contact Treadwell. "We had sent people over, but they never could catch up with Mary Treadwell," he said.
Sometimes his representatives found the Youth Pride offices at 1536 U St. NW closed during working hours, and at other times Treadwell canceled appointments at the last moment, Hollis said.
He said he could not refer any trainee candidates to Youth Pride, as called for in the agreement, because Treadwell never provided a training proposal or schedule.
Last August, Hollis said, he learned through a newspaper article that Youth Pride had gone out of business. He then instructed UPO counsel Bernard C. Dory to look into the matter.
Dory, in a memo to Hollis last August, said he found the Youth Pride offices boarded up and the telephone there disconnected, and that therefore he was "assuming that the Pride people cannot be reached."
Dory said in an interview this week that he last tried to contact Treadwell last September or October. "Who do we serve to sue ? We can't find her," Dory said.
Hollis said he had informed Delano E. Lewis, who at the time was chairman of the UPO board, of the need to recover the money. Lewis told him to proceed, Hollis said.
Both Hollis and Dory now say, however, that budget and staffing cuts have hampered their efforts to follow through.
Hollis has been on administrative leave since late January because of what he and current UPO board chairman Thornell Page say are personal and personnel matters that have nothing to do with any alleged improprieties or the Youth Pride contract.
Page said yesterday that he recalls that problems with the contract were discussed at a board meeting, but that "we have a large number of contracts and there was no urgency whenever it was discussed."
He said he now thinks "we should exercise and exhaust any remedies available to us" to recover any money due UPO, and pledged that the agency would pursue the matter.