This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Jay Schiliro Mayor of Marcus Hook
October 8, 2012 State Ethics Commission 309 Finance Building P.O. Box 11470 Harrisburg, PA 17108-1470 To Whom It May Concern: Per the attached form, I would like to request the initiation of an investigation into potential ethics violations 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 questionable activity related to non-profit and other organizations funded with hundreds of thousands in state tax dollars. According to documents, a substantial portion of state funding was directed to these organizations 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 own request -- as a source of income on state financial disclosure reports, which coincides with the state grant funding. Specifically, Kirkland's biography states that he is director of youth services at Community Baptist Church. Grant documentation states that a portion of the funds, awarded in 2008 and 2009, went to 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 not the program coordinator in question, it would seem to be a serious ethics issue if Kirkland used his official 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 church as a source of direct or indirect income on his statement of financial interests -- certainly raises questions. The Chester Fine Arts Center East has nearly $130,000 in state funding between 2008 and 2010, the period for which DCED grants documentation is available. However, I believe the state funding dates back to at last the 1990s. The organization is essentially controlled by his family. It was founded by Anzer Kirkland, Thaddeus’ brother. According to official documents, Kirkland’s wife, Susie Kirkland has served as both acting president and board president of the organization. Official grant documentation indicates that $65,000 of a $100,000 grant -- awarded in 2008 -- was used to pay the salary of the executive director of the organization, John Wooten. An IRS Form 990 report for 2008 confirms that Wooten was paid a salary of $65,000. Some online information appears to indicate that Wooten is a relative, perhaps by marriage, of Kirkland.
In addition, according to a company website, Wooten serves as Senior Vice President at Starr Associates. Starr Associates lists Chester Fine Arts Center East (CFACE) as a “current or former client.” Of note, Starr and Associates is the public affairs firm of Ronald Starr, a former campaign consultant 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 of Directors of the non-profit CFACE, as well as a staff member of Starr Associates. The IRS Form 990 for 2008 also lists Anzer Kirkland on the board of directors, as well as a Claretta Kirkland. I believe it would be worth examining whether the board of directors of this non-profit approved expending money for a public relations firm that employed its family members and whether those board members benefitted in any way from the manner in which they expended state dollars. Given the many close family ties, it would seem reasonable that Rep. Kirkland would know whether and if this funding would benefit his family and associates. The Department of Community and Economic Development also provided $85,000 in funding in 2009 to the Across Color Cultural Festival (also referred to at times as the Across Colors Cultural Festival or Across 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, mentioned above) is listed on the Chester Fine Arts Center East as a performer and online sources indicate she has performed at the festival as a singer. Grant documentation indicates that $42,000 of the above mentioned grant was used to pay for the performance of singing groups. If Tyra Starr was in fact paid for her performance using state dollars and Thaddeus used his office to advocate or direct the funding, I believe 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 to indicate the importance of the festival to his re-election, that he derives some personal benefit form the festival. It would seem that there would be a conflict for both the state and his campaign to fund the same 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 the wife) of John Wooten, who has served as executive director of the Chester Fine Arts Center and is listed as 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 sponsored by 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 reason for the expenditure. It would be helpful if his campaign filings contained a reason for the use of his campaign committee to pay an entity that he lists as a source of income. Unfortunately, incomplete information on Kirkland’s campaign finance reports is widespread. His spring 2012 filings fail to include addresses and employment for major donors, including donors in the $1,000 to $5,000 contribution range. One would assume Kirkland would know such basic information about his largest
donors. His failure to provide such basic information only raises more questions in my mind about what he may be hiding. Similarly, Kirkland’s campaign finance reports contains tens of thousands of dollars in payments to “cash” and payments to Thaddeus Kirkland himself for “campaign day expenses,” “food,” and “poll workers,” which on their face raises questions. I would be curious what backup documentation exists for these payments and whether the campaign or Thaddeus issued any IRS 1099 forms to these campaign workers for tax purposes that may document that the funding was actually used for its stated purpose. As you can imagine, I feel the above information leads to a number of serious questions. Is a legislator allowed to steer money to an entity (Community Baptist Church) listed as source of income? Was Kirkland paid out of the grant money to the church? Was Kirkland’s Daughter paid for her performance at the Cultural Festival and did Kirkland advocate for funding to an entity that may have then paid his daughter? If Wooten is in fact related to Kirkland, did Kirkland direct state funding to an entity (CFACE) that then paid a relative a $65,000 salary using state money? Was Kirkland aware that the non-profit CFACE intended to employ Starr Associates, a company run by his campaign consultant and son-in-law? Is the apparent increase over the past four years in State House hearings and other “official” taxpayer funded events hosted at CFACE coincidental, or related to the elimination of WAMS and subsequent limitations placed on the ability of legislators to direct DCED funding to organizations like CFACE? Do these rentals represent the best venues for these public meetings and hearings and what are the total state payments to CFACE since 2008 for facility usage? Is this a backdoor attempt to provide a state subsidy to a non-profit run by his family and friends that in turn sponsors a music festival that helps boost his popularity and re-election chances? How else was taxpayer funding utilized in years prior to 2008 – the last year for which the detailed grant documentation is available online -- for non-profits that are closely tied to Kirkland and did additional family members benefit? Who are the security personnel, consultants and dancers listed in the various grant requests and are they related to Kirkland in some way? What type of documentation exists, if any, for the Kirkland campaign’s tens of thousands of dollars in payments to “cash” and other payments made by the campaign directly to Kirkland himself? The residents of the 159th House District deserve answers to these disturbing issues and your timely response would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely,
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.