A nonprofit foundation paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Baltimore Police Department as part of the commissioner's signature training program reported that nearly 40 percent of the foundation's expenditures over two years covered entertainment, meals and travel, a review of tax records by The Baltimore Sun has found.
The expenses reported by the Center for Research on Institutions and Social Policy included more than $34,000 spent on entertainment in 2009 and 2010, the most recent years for which records are available. An additional $25,000 was spent on travel and $3,000 on meals, the records show.
Adam Walinsky, president and founder of the New York-based organization, said the entertainment expenses were typically meals with police supervisors where training is discussed.
He and other consultants are paid for their role in shaping the so-called Diamond Standard Training program, an initiative of Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III that's administered by Police Department personnel. The training is focused on officers' conduct and their relationship with the community and also teaches arrest techniques and runs shooting simulations.
But the continued need for consultants — and the expenses they incur — are expected to come under scrutiny Wednesday at a City Council hearing called by Councilman Brandon M. Scott, the vice chair of the public safety committee who called the meeting to question the spending on the contracts. When asked by The Sun about consultant expenditures, Scott also questioned whether that was a good use of the Police Department's funds.
"We're paying the guy [Walinsky] to train people, not to have dinner and talk about training," Scott said.
Marc Owens, a Washington attorney who previously led the IRS division overseeing nonprofits, said such a high percentage of entertainment and dining expenses raises questions for a tax-exempt, nonprofit foundation.
"The question is whether the activities actually help the police department operate more efficiently and appropriately, or whether it's just an old-boys luncheon club," Owens said. "There are many 'red flags' in these documents from a federal tax compliance perspective," he added, referring to annual filings with the IRS that outlines expenses and other financial information.
Police supervisors conduct the Diamond training. Walinsky mainly serves as a strategic consultant to the training program and pays guest speakers and other contractors to evaluate and tweak the curriculum.
Walinsky said his expenses are appropriate and that a bookkeeper ensures the documentation is in order. His foundation has no paid employees, and he says he does not receive a salary. He also noted that he has spent less than the city has budgeted for his contract.
"They ask me to do things, obviously, that they don't feel the department has the capability to do, and I try my best to help them," he said. "I don't take anything out of this personally. I'm just helping them where they need help."
Bealefeld said the city followed contracting procedures in paying Walinsky and that how that money is spent is Walinsky's "business."
"There are organizations we do business with, and how they allocate their business money or personal money, there's no way for me to be involved in that," Bealefeld said. "I'm confident that we paid for the services rendered, and I'm satisfied with the services we got from the collective group."
Scott described the commissioner's comments as "awfully irresponsible."
"We can't just say we're going to pay somebody with [city] dollars and they'll do whatever they want," Scott said.
The city has approved three contracts for up to $605,000 since 2009 with Walinsky's foundation, according to the agreements with the city.
Also expected to come under scrutiny is $1.9 million in spending on a realated contract for martial arts training taught as part of the department's Diamond Standard Training since 2008. That training is administered by Lew Hicks, a former Navy SEAL who first worked with Walinsky on a Police Corps project and previously had a contract to train Baltimore Police officers in 2000. Hicks declined to comment.
Bealefeld's vision for the Diamond program was to continuously train the entire department, not just for a day or week, but for a month at a time, rotating in entire shifts of officers. A so-called "ghost shift" of officers takes their place until they return. Bealefeld recruited Walinsky to the effort; the pair met in the 1990s when Walinsky was creating the Department of Justice recruitment program called Police Corps, now defunct.
The Diamond training program — whose motto is "No better friend, no better role model, no better diplomat, no worse enemy" — has become a capstone of Bealefeld's administration, credited by the department with driving down police-involved shootings and improving community relations.
Police commanders say officers have praised Diamond training in written evaluations, and Bealefeld's new training and education director, former Montgomery County assistant police chief John A. King, has commended the program.
And police officials say the cost is minimal. Deputy Commissioner John Skinner said the costs associated with Diamond Training boil down to $9 a day per officer. About 1,900 officers take the training.
But the program also has its critics. An independent commission appointed last year by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake questioned the program's effectiveness and concluded it had not prepared officers for the scenario that unfolded outside a downtown club when officers shot and killed one of their own.
Some police officers, who haven't spoken publicly for fear of job repercussions, have questioned why the contracts that provided training for on-staff police trainers are still in place years later. One criminologist said the extended role of outside consultants like Walinsky and others is unusual.
David Klinger, a former Los Angeles police officer and professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, said that typically a department has a cadre of training officers who receive one to two weeks in specialized instruction that they can then pass on to the rest of the department.
Detailed expenditures from the foundation's tax forms were only available for January 2009 through August 2010, a period during which it reported receiving about $223,000 from the Baltimore Police Department, according to tax documents.
During that time, the foundation reported spending $156,000 of which $62,000 went to entertainment, meals and travel, according to tax documents. In that same time frame, Walinsky's group spent $3,700 on books and training materials and $2,300 on gifts.
Additional expenditures included insurance, record-keeping and other incidentals as well as about $57,000 paid to other consultants. Also during that time, the foundation's cash reserves increased, and a personal loan Walinsky made to the foundation was paid down, the documents show.
Walinsky defended the "entertainment" expenses as reasonable spending related to his training duties.
"That money is all being spent on conferences and meetings with people in the Baltimore city police department," Walinsky said in an interview. "I sit down around a table with four or five, or two or three, of these guys. I just ended up having lunch with two Baltimore city commanders to talk about the future of this program; I picked up the check."
Robert F. Cherry, president of the city police union, said officers support opportunities for training and that he has gone to dinner with Walinsky to discuss police training issues. "He has sought to get consensus from the rank and file on what they're looking for, and puts it together into his project," Cherry said.
Walinsky also asserted that he receives no salary or fees from the foundation. He said he can afford to work without a salary because of money he earned during an earlier career as a lawyer, in addition to an inheritance.
Other questions about expenditures were submitted in writing at Walinsky's request last week; he has not responded since then.
According to Walinsky's contract with the city in 2009, Walinsky said his foundation would provide five Diamond training sessions for $20,000 per session. In 2010, Walinsky said he and his collaborator on the program, Mark Byington, a criminal justice professor at Jefferson College, would teach eight training sessions at a cost of $12,500 each, according to contract documents. In 2011, Walinsky requested $14,000 for each of nine sessions.
In addition, Walinsky's foundation also sought funding for other consultants, according to the contracts. Each consultant was slated to work for less than 15 days of training and would make as much as $32,000 for that block of time. One of them gives a motivational speech on the first day of the training. Others meet behind the scenes with supervisors to discuss how to tweak the training.
Byington is the only consultant involved in Diamond who has a background working as a police officer. He visited Baltimore about six times last year and said he did not speak to any training classes, but spoke to higher level supervisors about developing and adapting training.
"The police commissioner and the deputy police commissioner [Skinner] have seen that training is where we can make the biggest impact on our officers, and therefore, the city," Byington said.
The Baltimore Police Department, and Maryland in general, have a long history with Walinsky. A former speechwriter for Robert F. Kennedy, Walinsky sought in the 1990s to develop a national police recruiting program modeled after the Peace Corps.
In Maryland he got the support of Kennedy's daughter, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who helped Walinsky secure grant money to develop a Police Corps curriculum that was later approved by the Department of Justice.
But after a few years, the Police Corps program was not turning out police recruits. An investigation by the investigative arm of Congress, now known as the Government Accountability Office, showed that less than half of the 1,000 positions funded by the program across the country had been filled, and more than $80 million in federal funds set aside for the program had gone unspent. The report concluded that poor management also stifled the program.
The city's current contract with Walinsky is due to expire at the end of the month. Officials have not said whether they intend to renew it or not, but Walinsky said the training must continue.
"The department now has to figure out the proper follow-up and renewal of the training," Walinsky said.
Diamond Standard Training
Value of Center for Research on Institutions and Social Policy's contracts with Baltimore over three years: $605,000
In 2009 and 2010, the foundation reported:
Consultant contractors: $57,000
Hotel and travel: $25,000
Other miscellaneous expenses: $37,000
Source: tax documents, city contractsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun