The nonprofit that employs Mayor Brandon Scott’s newly announced partner spent 79% of its operating funds on consulting and management fees in 2021, according to its disclosure report to the Internal Revenue Service.
In the same year that Hana Pugh was hired as operations director, Bmore Empowered Inc. reported using more than $550,000 to pay for non-programming costs.
Next to nothing went to the programs that the group sponsors to build sisterhood, mindfulness and entrepreneurship in Black girls and women:
• a two-week summer camp for about 30 girls.
• quarterly workshops for teens on such subjects as “Health and Hair,” “Pose and Plan” and “Canvas and Cardio.”
• an incubator business mentorship program for 10 women.
• after-school yoga workshops.
Despite its minimalist programming, the organization has multiplied its revenue base over the last few years.
It has picked up $121,500 from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to fund its summer camp (which it also charges parents $150 a child), a summer cooking program, a “Visionaries of Color Summit” and a “Be Virtual’ coding workshop.
Other funders include the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corporation; B’More Invested, established by the Open Society Institute-Baltimore and Baltimore’s Promise; and the Baltimore City Intergenerational Initiative for Trauma and Youth (B-CIITY), underwritten by the Baltimore City Health Department.
Just last week, the group received a $50,000 BOOST (Black Owned-and-Operated Storefront Tenancy) grant from the Downtown Partnership to help rehabilitate a vacant storefront on Howard Street, where it plans to relocate and open a retail store.
Despite its popularity in philanthropic circles, the nonprofit’s finances are murky, with the only available information, on IRS Form 990s, incomplete and confusing.
Hana Pugh’s compensation is not disclosed on those forms. Neither is the pay drawn by the group’s co-founders, Kieta Mpolo Iriarte-Amin and Nazaahah Amin.
Instead, the three officers are apparently paid through a “fees for services” pot of money that, in 2021, consisted of $207,898 in “consulting management expenses” and $344,461 in “contracting management expenses.”
Reached yesterday by phone, Pugh demurred when asked how much she is being paid by the charity. Saying it was not a good time to talk, she agreed to be interviewed today.
Subsequent calls by The Brew have not been answered.
Iriarte-Amin and Amin have not responded to requests for an interview.
Pugh was identified as Scott’s girlfriend when the bachelor mayor announced last Friday on social media that the couple was expecting a child in winter 2024.
His public announcement was followed by a letter sent out by his campaign finance committee to donors that suggested that Pugh and the baby may play a role in Scott’s 2024 campaign for a second term.
“I am fortunate to have a loving partner who shares my passion for creating a better future for Baltimore” – Mayor Scott in a July 16 letter to political backers.
“I am fortunate to have a loving partner who shares my passion for creating a better future for Baltimore,” Scott wrote. The birth of his first child several months before the May 14 Democratic Party primary “reinforces my commitment to building a city where every child has the opportunity to thrive and access their full potential.”
“I thank you once again for being a part of this wonderful journey,” Scott concluded. “Your support means the world to me and my family.”
A Lot of LLCs
Kieta Iriarte-Amin, a longtime grants manager at Baltimore City Schools, and Nazaahah Amin, a yoga teacher, formed Bmore Empowered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2018.
Both of them also operated – or would soon operate – several for-profit companies.
Iriarte-Amin owns a grant consulting and writing business that’s listed at the same address as Bmore Empowered, while Amin runs a yoga therapy practice (Ama Wellness) and a graphics firm (Ama Designs).
Bmore Empowered settled into a rented rowhouse in the Harlem Park-Sandtown 21217 zip code that became a focus of private charity giving in the wake of the 2015 Freddie Gray Uprising.
The first public disclosure of the group’s finances shows it had raised $241,756 and spent just $31,508 in 2020. At the end of 2021, the group said it had a surplus of $260,382.
“Jill of all trades”
In August 2021, the charity announced it had hired Hana Pugh, later describing her as a “multi-hyphenated Jill of all trades with a background in biology and research.”
According to online references, Pugh previously worked as a wedding event planner and as an operations coordinator for a Bel Air company that marketed plumbers and other tradespeople online.
In 2018, she had formed Pugh Insights LLC “to empower small businesses, entrepreneurs and C-level executives” with administrative support services.
She charged $60 an hour for copywriting services, executive presentations, proofreading and “change management recommendations,” saying she offered clients “a real relationship that can oftentimes be lost in a remote setting.”
Pugh’s company is still found on the Internet, although it is “not in good standing” and was forfeited last October by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation for failure to file property returns.
Divorce to be Finalized
Scott told the media last Friday that he met Pugh (no relation to the former Baltimore mayor) at Charm City Live last September and they began dating shortly thereafter.
He was photographed speaking and presenting at the Solstice Soiree fundraiser for Bmore Empowered on December 11, held at the Guilford Hall Brewery in Station North.
Pugh worn a gold gown and Scott a matching gold tie in keeping with the event’s “dress to express” attire of gold and pink.
On March 15, Pugh filed for divorce from her husband of 13 years, saying they had lived separately since 2019.
The uncontested divorce, in which Pugh is seeking child support for her 7-year-old son but no alimony, is scheduled to be finalized on Friday in Baltimore Circuit Court by Magistrate Hope Tipton.
Cupcakes and Kickboxing
Bmore Empowered currently hosts a two-week summer camp for 9 to 17 year old girls. The camp conducts self-esteem exercises, yoga and mindfulness activities, entrepreneurship, appreciation of nature and STEAM exercises.
The nonprofit charges $150 per child, and also receives grant money from the Casey Foundation and the Baltimore Summer Funding Collaborative.
Quarterly workshops are held for girls in the same age group. Each workshop includes a mindful movement session and a hands-on craft taught by a woman entrepreneur, according to its website, with subjects ranging from Hair and Health to Cupcakes and Kickboxing.
Recently, the group started a six-month “incubator program” for 10 Black women who will be mentored by experienced woman business owners.
At the end of the program, graduates will receive a $2,000 capital grant to support their business plan.
What’s become a major source of revenue for Bmore Empowered is fiscal sponsorships.
Using its federal tax-exempt status, Bmore Empowered now handles the financial affairs of 25 “grassroots” projects and organizations, including Baltimore Brothers, The Voices of 21217, Fearlessly Loving Yourself, The Be. Org, and quite a few Judy Centers, which provide early education services for low-income children.
In 2020, Iriarte-Amin established Mpolo Business Solutions, an “empathy-driven” for-profit company that offers coaching, consulting and grant writing services for nonprofits.
Housed in the same Gilmor Street rowhouse as Baltimore Empowered, the financial relationship between the two entities is unclear.
The organization’s latest goal is to expand out of its West Baltimore quarters into larger space downtown thanks to a $50,000 BOOST grant.
On the day before he announced his relationship with Hana Pugh and his pending fatherhood, Mayor Scott was celebrating the selection of Bmore Empowered and four other businesses in the second round of BOOST money.
Scott described the leaders of Bmore Empowered as “fabulous, phenomenal and beautiful women” without mentioning that one of them was his girlfriend.
The mayor described its leaders as “fabulous, phenomenal and beautiful women” without mentioning that one of them was his girlfriend.
Bmore Empowered was only nonprofit selected by Downtown Partnership out of a large number of applicants.
The BOOST grant will help rehab space that the group wants to rent for a retail store and offices at 5 North Howard Street, Nazaahah Amin enthused to WBAL-TV.
“Right now, we have to turn women and girls away from our program due to lack of space. This will almost triple the space we’re in right now, and allow us to take in more Black girls and Black women and provide more services for them,” she said.
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