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Accountabilityby Fern Shen and Mark Reutter2:15 pmApr 23, 20190

ABC, involved in Healthy Holly sales, set to receive $14 million in city contracts

“It’s gone through the normal regulatory framework,” says spokesman for Acting Mayor Young.

Above: ABC CEO Diane Bell-McKoy. (YouTube)

Associated Black Charities, under scrutiny after acknowledging it helped organizations donate nearly $80,000 to buy Mayor Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly books, is poised to receive contracts to distribute more than $14 million for organizations to provide HIV treatment in Baltimore.

The Board of Estimates is set to award two contracts tomorrow to ABC as part of the federal Ryan White Part-A and Minority AIDS Initiative programs.

For many years, ABC has held the contract to help the city administer federal funding to organizations to provide HIV treatment.

But amid revelations about its involvement with Pugh’s book sales – which have prompted a broad criminal investigation by the State Prosecutor and widespread calls for the mayor to resign – ABC has been under a microscope.

Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young recently ordered a specific audit of ABC’s administration of another large city contract, the $12 million Children and Youth Fund.

The city Ethics Board is also reviewing the relationship between Pugh and ABC.

A Healthy Holly Middleman

The review and audits come in the wake of disclosures that ABC accepted nearly $90,000 from five separate entities to buy and distribute 10,000 copies of Pugh’s books.

The non-profit forwarded nearly $80,000 of those funds to Pugh’s book company, Healthy Holly LLC, and kept the rest to cover administrative costs.

Revelations about ABC’s role as a pass-through for the book purchases followed Pugh’s previous acknowledgement of $500,000 of undisclosed book sales to the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), whose board Pugh sat on.

Facing potential charges of self-dealing and ethics law violations, Pugh took a leave of absence on April 1, citing the need to recover from a bout of pneumonia.

As The Brew first reported, Young informed ABC president and CEO Diane Bell-McKoy that he was directing the Department of Audits to examine the records of ABC, its subcontractors and grantees with respect to the Children and Youth Fund.

The fund was a signature initiative for Young, who assumed the role of ex officio mayor after Pugh took her leave.

Regular Process Followed, City Says

According to tomorrow’s spending board’s agenda, ABC is to receive two contracts – for $12.8 million and $1.4 million – as part of the Ryan White program created to improve HIV-related health outcomes to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

As the program’s fiscal agent, the non-profit is responsible for “day-to-day fiscal administration, contracting and monitoring of provider expenditures to ensure the reasonableness of reimbursements requested by direct service providers and to be in compliance with contractual fiscal requirements,” according to Board of Estimates documents.

The contracts are expected to be approved by a blanket “yes” vote by the spending board, whose three elected members are Acting Mayor Young, Acting City Council President Sharon Middleton and Comptroller Joan Pratt.

Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said ABC has handled the HIV program for years and there has never been a hint of impropriety.

“It’s gone through the normal regulatory framework grants like that go through. It’s a federal grant, so it’s undergone extra scrutiny, in fact,” he said today.

The grant period is backdated to March 1, 2019 and will continue through February 29, 2020.

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