Sowing Discontent

The anti-crime Weed and Seed program is leaving behind a lot of scorn and thorns in Denver neighborhoods.

A former NPT leader who begs anonymity says he left because he believes Roybal forged a letter of recommendation from Deputy Manager of Safety Tracy Howard.

The former leader says the letter "made absolutely no sense, so I knew [Roybal] had done it; the third page had about five misspelled words, so I knew he had done it. Tracy never had anything to do with it."

Howard says he recalls letting Roybal sign Howard's name on a document, but he says he didn't think it was a letter of recommendation.

Asked whether he forged the signature, Roybal replies, "I don't answer to any innuendo. It was resolved in a positive manner. If it was something negative, I wouldn't be here."

But others question why Roybal is in his post, considering his police record, which includes a deferred judgment on a charge of possession of a controlled substance in 1991 and two DUI charges, one in 1991 and one in 1996. (Roybal says the drug charge involved a small amount of cocaine that he says he had recovered while working at a halfway house.) Roybal says his record has no impact on his work, and no one questioned him about it.

"People don't hold everyone accountable for what happened in the past," says Roybal. "They didn't go into detail of the incidents or charges. They just asked me, and that was that. Everything was done through procedure and process and qualifications and experiences."

Asked about the propriety of having someone with a police record run an anti-crime program, Gwen Koehler points out that it was the neighborhood's own decision and says, "I don't think that was a concern. There were four candidates, and the community decided overwhelmingly for Paul." Asked whether the neighborhood knew of his record, Koehler replies, "I suppose some of them did. I don't know how extensively they asked."

"It was never an issue," Womantree says. "We went on his demonstrated ability as an organizer."

In other Weed and Seed neighborhoods, questions revolve around what Guerra himself acknowledges is, "conceptually, one of the flaws of the program": service providers receiving money from the neighborhood and at the same time serving on the board that gives the money out.

Former members of the Cole NPT have questioned the propriety of Bonita Brown's receiving more than $120,000 since 1992 to run a summer youth program that conducts activities such as math and science tutorials and trips to the Denver Public Library and Denver Art Museum. Critics note that Brown got the grant while she was on the board that determined who received the money.

"There was a real serious concern," says Cole NPT member Sam Gomez, "because she was receiving so many funds and she had a strong voice on who got the funds." Moreover, Gomez says he had "never seen anything to substantiate" what her program actually accomplished.

Brown denies any impropriety and contends that most of the members of the NPT were also service providers. "I had to submit a proposal just like everyone else," she says. "I answered questions on it but did not vote on it. They took a consensus." She contends that she's submitted reports about the more than 1,000 kids and their families who have been served by her program.

Much of the bickering and infighting could end naturally when the federal funds run out; the neighborhoods may have a difficult enough time just rustling up their own money. But whether Weed and Seed has been worth the fuss is a question that residents of the neighborhoods are likely to keep discussing.

"Weed and Seed itself, if they give it a chance, it's a very good program, period," says Gloria Jean Olvera, a longtime resident of Baker-La Alma. The problem, however, is that many of the people involved in the program want to "get something for free," she says. "Everyone is out for themselves, right down to these grant monies. They want control. It all ends up in politics, and I don't like politics.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help