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Ethics Investigation Letter Rev

Ethics Investigation Letter Rev

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Published by: PAindy on Oct 11, 2012
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From the Desk of….Jay SchiliroMayor of Marcus Hook
October 8, 2012State Ethics Commission309 Finance BuildingP.O. Box 11470Harrisburg, PA 17108-1470To Whom It May Concern:Per the attached form, I would like to request the initiation of an investigation into potential ethicsviolations by State Representative Thaddeus Kirkland of the 159th House District.As you can see from the information below and the attached chart, there is a variety of questionableactivity related to non-profit and other organizations funded with hundreds of thousands in state taxdollars. According to documents, a substantial portion of state funding was directed to theseorganizations by the House Democratic Caucus, presumably at the request of Rep. Kirkland. Two of these organizations, Across Colors and the Chester Fine Arts Center East have officers --and, in the past,at least one employee -- who are either members of Kirkland's family or are close associates.In addition, Rep. Kirkland lists one organization that received state funding -- possibly at Kirkland's ownrequest -- as a source of income on state financial disclosure reports, which coincides with the state grantfunding. Specifically, Kirkland's biography states that he is director of youth services at CommunityBaptist Church. Grant documentation states that a portion of the funds, awarded in 2008 and 2009, wentto pay for a program coordinator for the youth group. If that program coordinator was Rep. Kirkland,this would appear to be a conflict of interest and serious ethical issue. However, even if Kirkland is notthe program coordinator in question, it would seem to be a serious ethics issue if Kirkland used hisofficial capacity as an elected official to direct $30,000 in state funding to his employer. The timing of the grants in 2008 and 2009 -- which coincide with the time at which Kirkland begins to list the churchas a source of direct or indirect income on his statement of financial interests -- certainly raisesquestions.The Chester Fine Arts Center East has nearly $130,000 in state funding between 2008 and 2010, theperiod for which DCED grants documentation is available. However, I believe the state funding datesback to at last the 1990s. The organization is essentially controlled by his family. It was founded byAnzer Kirkland, Thaddeus’ brother. According to official documents, Kirkland’s wife, Susie Kirklandhas served as both acting president and board president of the organization. Official grantdocumentation indicates that $65,000 of a $100,000 grant -- awarded in 2008 -- was used to pay thesalary of the executive director of the organization, John Wooten. An IRS Form 990 report for 2008confirms that Wooten was paid a salary of $65,000. Some online information appears to indicate thatWooten is a relative, perhaps by marriage, of Kirkland.
In addition, according to a company website, Wooten serves as Senior Vice President at StarrAssociates. Starr Associates lists Chester Fine Arts Center East (CFACE) as a “current or formerclient.” Of note, Starr and Associates is the public affairs firm of Ronald Starr, a former campaignconsultant to Kirkland, who is also married to Kirkland’s daughter, Tyra.Shareeta Joe, who I believe may also be related to Kirkland, is also listed as a member of the Board oDirectors of the non-profit CFACE, as well as a staff member of Starr Associates. The IRS Form 990for 2008 also lists Anzer Kirkland on the board of directors, as well as a Claretta Kirkland. I believe itwould be worth examining whether the board of directors of this non-profit approved expending moneyfor a public relations firm that employed its family members and whether those board membersbenefitted in any way from the manner in which they expended state dollars. Given the many closefamily ties, it would seem reasonable that Rep. Kirkland would know whether and if this funding wouldbenefit his family and associates.The Department of Community and Economic Development also provided $85,000 in funding in 2009to the Across Color Cultural Festival (also referred to at times as the Across Colors Cultural Festival orAcross Color Cultural Committee). This event is widely reported in the press as “Kirkland’s” festival.Kirkland’s daughter, Tyra Starr (who I have heard from sources is married to Ronald Starr, mentionedabove) is listed on the Chester Fine Arts Center East as a performer and online sources indicate she hasperformed at the festival as a singer. Grant documentation indicates that $42,000 of the abovementioned grant was used to pay for the performance of singing groups. If Tyra Starr was in fact paidfor her performance using state dollars and Thaddeus used his office to advocate or direct the funding, Ibelieve this would also be worthy of an ethics review.In addition, it appears that Kirkland reasonably believes that the festival improves his re-election.Indeed, his campaign finance reports in include a $2,000 payment to Across Colors, which seems toindicate the importance of the festival to his re-election, that he derives some personal benefit form thefestival. It would seem that there would be a conflict for both the state and his campaign to fund thesame festival which press reports indicate is “Kirkland’s” or sponsored by Kirkland.The treasurer of Across Colors is Leola Williams, who I believe may also related to Thaddeus. Notably,a Harold Williams is listed as Chairman of Trustees of Community Baptist Church (mentioned above).In addition, the President of Across Colors is Lashanda Wooten, who I believe is related (perhaps thewife) of John Wooten, who has served as executive director of the Chester Fine Arts Center and is listedas Senior Vice President of Starr and Associates on the company’s website. Of note, Charles Dixon,Kirkland’s nephew, is also an employee of Starr Associates. The Across Color event is also sponsoredby the Chester Fine Arts Center. As you can the inner-connectedness between these three groups,Kirkland, and Starr Associates are numerous.I would also note that campaign finance filings indicate that Kirkland’s campaign committee paid$2,000 to Community Baptist Church in 2012, although the filings contain no description of the reasonfor the expenditure. It would be helpful if his campaign filings contained a reason for the use of hiscampaign committee to pay an entity that he lists as a source of income. Unfortunately, incompleteinformation on Kirkland’s campaign finance reports is widespread. His spring 2012 filings fail toinclude addresses and employment for major donors, including donors in the $1,000 to $5,000contribution range. One would assume Kirkland would know such basic information about his largest

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