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Article from SF Chronicle Re: SLUG

  • Subject: [cg] Article from SF Chronicle Re: SLUG
  • From: Kristi Stephens Adams <popisti@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 10:44:40 -0700 (PDT)

There is a new Community Garden Org. starting in SF, I
am sure they will contact you will info.  Here is an
article about the status of SLUG:

Friday, July 9, 2004 (SF Chronicle)
S.F. finds nonprofit broke ban on politics/Gardeners
accused of 
campaigning -- funding in jeopardy
Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco officials moved Thursday to sever ties
with a city-  funded nonprofit organization after an
investigation substantiated allegations
the group directed employees to campaign and vote for
Gavin Newsom for mayor and Kamala Harris for district
attorney last year.
The San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, once
touted as a  national model for urban job-training,
faces being barred from receiving city
contracts or grants for at least two years as a result
of the findings, according to a letter sent Thursday
by City Controller Ed Harrington to the nonprofit
group's board of directors.  "The Office of the City
Attorney has provided this office sufficient 
and compelling evidence that the San Francisco League
of Urban Gardeners directed some of its employees to
campaign and vote for candidates in 
the election for mayor and district attorney for San
Francisco in November  and December 2003," Harrington
wrote.  "By doing so, SLUG, at a minimum, violated ...
(a city law that)  prohibits
organizations receiving funds from the City and County
of San Francisco  to use any of those funds to
participate in, support, or attempt to  influence
a political campaign for any candidate or ballot
measure," he wrote.
The city attorney investigation was built in part on
reports of SLUG employees who told The Chronicle that
SLUG higher-ups and a top 
official at a city agency that funds the organization
had pressured them to vote and walk precincts for
Newsom and told them their jobs depended on him being
elected mayor last fall. Some of these employees said
they also  were urged to participate in a vote drive
organized by the Harris campaign.
   A spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said
Thursday the investigation found no indication that
Newsom or Harris or their 
campaign staffs had any knowledge of alleged
   Roger Gordon, president of SLUG's board of
directors, said the city  was going overboard and that
the group would appeal the decision through 
the city's administrative channels.
   "It seems drastic and arbitrary," said Gordon, who
complained that  he doesn't even know how the
investigators reached their conclusion. The 
city attorney's office won't release the report to
SLUG or make it publicly available until an appeal is
filed by the organization, city attorney
spokesman Matt Dorsey said.
   "I'm quite eager to find out what was learned from
this six-month investigation," Gordon said. "I don't
believe any wrongdoing was done. 
I think there was an instance of poor judgment ... but
I don't think anything criminal, premeditated or
coercive was going on."
   SLUG, which started as a tiny San Francisco
gardening co-op, employs mostly at-risk youth and
adults, including ex-convicts in the poor 
Bayview neighborhood, who tend urban gardens and a
4-acre organic farm in Bernal Heights and do
entry-level municipal work, such as street cleaning 
under contract with the city Public Works Department.
   The nine SLUG street cleaners whose allegations
were published in 
January by The Chronicle said the pressure to vote and
campaign was focused primarily on supporting Newsom
for mayor and was applied by Mohammed  Nuru, deputy
director of the Public Works Department and former
SLUG  executive
director from 1994 to 2000; Jonathan Gomwalk, the
then-executive  director; and several SLUG crew
   Some of the street cleaners said they were
transported to City Hall  to
cast absentee ballots for Newsom -- and directed to
turn over their  voter receipt stubs after casting
their ballot. Others said they were transported or
directed to appear at a Newsom
campaign office, where Nuru, a Newsom campaign
volunteer, directed them 
to talk precincts distributing Newsom for Mayor
campaign literature.
   The city's letter Thursday to SLUG does not mention
Nuru or Gomwalk.
Gomwalk, a native of Nigeria, was arrested this spring
by U.S. immigration
officials and faced deportation. Beyond SLUG'S alleged
election improprieties, city officials also 
are seeking reimbursement of $71,978 in overbillings
and for work not performed under its contracts with
city agencies, according to a draft 
of a separate city controller's audit obtained by The
Chronicle on  Thursday.
   The audit found deficient accounting practices and
controls. SLUG overstated its net income by more than
$275,000 for 2001 and owed
$643, 000 in payroll taxes, according to the draft
   Gordon didn't dispute most of the audit's findings.
He said SLUG has
turned itself around. It has a new fiscal plan that
staved off  bankruptcy, new board members, a new
executive director and a new accountant, he 
said. And federal authorities have been paid payroll
taxes, he added.
   Gordon said SLUG won't die if it loses the city's
contracts,  although they
represent a huge chunk of its budget, about $2.2
million during the  2002- 03 fiscal year. But San
Francisco will suffer, he said.
   "The city needs programs like SLUG," he said. "We
hire people who 
private employers find it difficult to hire. You can't
talk about (ending) gang violence in Bayview or
homelessness without thinking about programs 
like SLUG."
   E-mail Ilene Lelchuk at ilelchuk@sfchronicle.com. 
Copyright 2004 SF Chronicle

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