The Board of Estimates abruptly pulled $14.2 million in contracts scheduled to be awarded today to Associated Black Charities and postponed the transaction for at least two weeks.
The action followed yesterday’s story in The Brew that the board was poised to approve the ABC contracts, despite the non-profit’s involvement in the Healthy Holly book scandal that has engulfed Mayor Catherine Pugh.
A spokesman for Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who serves as acting mayor while Pugh remains on a leave of absence, had defended the board’s planned action, saying the ABC contracts went through “the normal regulatory framework.”
That, however, was yesterday.
This morning the board placed the contracts on its “non-routine” agenda and, when the time came, two Health Department officials stepped up to testify.
The spending board, controlled by Young, took the unusual step of postponing the awards, underscoring how much the Healthy Holly scandal has spooked City Hall.
Asked to explain the decision to delay, Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said the acting mayor was “disappointed that representatives from the Heath Department were ill-prepared to discuss this important matter.”
He said ABC’s president and CEO, Diane Bell-McKoy, had not been asked to appear before the panel to answer questions.
Helped Entities Buy Books
Asked to respond, Associated Black Charities said through a spokesman that it has “received no information from the City about the Board of Estimates’ action and thus has no comment.”
ABC is the city’s fiscal agent for the allocation of Ryan White grants for HIV and AIDS treatment. Bell-McKoy and her staff have administered the federally-funded program for years.
Last month, the non-profit’s board of directors revealed that ABC executives had accepted nearly $90,000 from five entities to buy and distribute Pugh’s self-published books.
The charity said it forwarded $80,000 to Pugh’s book company, Healthy Holly LLC, and kept the rest as administrative costs.
Following this disclosure, Acting Mayor Young ordered an audit of ABC’s handling of the $12 million Children and Youth Fund, his signature legislative act as president of the City Council.
Today’s postponement will not directly impact HIV programs in the city. That’s because the spending board had earlier advanced funds for the programs through mid-May.
Included in the advance was $108,000 for ABC’s administrative costs in March and April.