Nard NP Jess Guitierrez speaks in support of the KEYS Leadership Academy.

Oxnard nonprofit may pursue legal action over grant

Supervisors award grant to Boys and Girls club; KEYS disagrees with decision

By Shane Cohn 04/18/2013


The Ventura County Board of Supervisors last week found themselves in the middle of a David and Goliath fight for a $228,000 award, the outcome in their hands.


They deemed Goliath the winner.


But David hasn’t stopped flinging stones.


Following the board’s 4-1 decision on Tuesday, April 9, to give slightly less than a quarter of a million dollars to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme (BGCOP) instead of the KEYS Youth Leadership Academy at Café on A in Oxnard, KEYS Executive Director Armando Vazquez, said the group is considering filing a lawsuit against the county because of a misuse of taxpayer monies.


The group’s attorney, Barbara Macri-Ortiz, who had already filed a protest on behalf of KEYS against the county’s Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council’s (JJCC) recommendation to award the money to BGCOP, wouldn’t comment on whether or not the group would file suit, but has questioned the county’s decision to give money to a group that she says only scratches the surface with the real problems facing Latino youth in Oxnard. 


“It’s like night and day,” she said, comparing the recidivism risks facing the populations at both nonprofit centers. “We’re going to continue to put a Band-Aid on the scab that we have, but the open wound, we’re not dealing with it.”


The funds in question were made available to county probation agencies from Senate Bill 736, designed to implement juvenile justice prevention programs. The JJCC developed the concept of an Evening Reporting Center program to be run by a local agency in the city of Oxnard. The program is designed to reduce youth recidivism rates and substance abuse. The county issued a request for proposals, and the finalists for the grant were the BGCOP, an operating budget of $5.3 million, and KEYS, an operating budget of $85,000, according to 2011 tax returns.


Macri-Ortiz and Vazquez said “big-box” organizations like Boys and Girls Club receive monetary awards at the local level year after year, while smaller nonprofits continually get passed over.


“Apparently,” wrote Macri-Ortiz in a letter to the board, “County personnel are not ready to examine a fatally flawed system that blindly doles out taxpayer dollars without testing the external validity of its robotic decision-making process.”


Dozens of supporters spoke on behalf of the KEYS program, which has been operating in Oxnard for 13 years.


“When you talk about hardcore gang bangers and substance abusers, they will not show up at the door step of the Boys and Girls Club,” said Jess Gutierrez, a retired state parole officer. “They go to programs like KEYS. That’s a fact.”


The Boys and Girls Club plans to operate the Evening Reporting Center from 3-8 p.m. on weekdays, serving up to 60 probationary youth.


Tim Blaylock, chief professional officer of the BGCOP, said he disagreed with many of the public comments said about the Boys and Girls Club population during the board meeting.


“We have served this population of youth since our inception in 1954,” said Blaylock, adding that there is currently a Boys and Girls Club mentor program in the county youth detention facility. “Those statements regarding our ability to do so are false and I invite anyone to come and tour our facilities and to see what we do first hand.”


Carmen Ramirez, Oxnard City Councilwoman, encouraged the board to “think outside the box,” split the grant money and judge the results of the organizations’ Evening Reporting Centers in the following year.


Supervisor John Zaragoza made a motion to split the grant money in half. It was seconded by Supervisor Linda Parks, but the motion was defeated. Supervisors Steve Bennett, Kathy Long and Peter Foy all said the motion was unfair to the RFP process, which made no mention of the possibility to divide the money among competing organizations. 

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