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Strong City Baltimore acknowledges problems with fiscal management

Strong City, a nonprofit that helps local organizations manage funding, acknowledged problems Friday afternoon, saying it had not kept pace with its rapid growth of recent years.

The group said in a statement that it has “lacked the sophisticated technologies, staff capacity, tools and communication protocols necessary” to keep up with projects for some of the 156 organizations it partners with.

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“This progress undoubtedly should have occurred earlier and for that, we take full responsibility,” the organization said in a statement.

The remarks came days after the Baltimore Brew reported that 19 groups that work with Strong City had spoken out about “inaccurate and delayed financial statements, fouled-up receivables and invoices, delayed and blocked payments.”

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Interim Strong Cities CEO Reginald Davis told The Sun on Friday evening that in most cases there were delays and paperwork issues, and the problems had been compounded by staff turnover and other factors.

“We’ve been working really hard to rectify those issues,” Davis said.

Kim Trueheart, a member of Strong City’s board of directors as well as a client, said the problems have been ongoing for months and have a variety of sources.

“They had challenges internally — processing paperwork, paying vendors. And it just snowballed from there,” Trueheart said. “I think that put folks in a really bad predicament. Not just nonprofits but business owners as well.”

Trueheart has funds for her Liberty Village Project managed by Strong City, and said she did not receive thousands of dollars in expected funding. She said that has frozen other funds that she does have, until her account is balanced.

But Trueheart said her problem stemmed from a paperwork issue with the agency she receives funds from, not necessarily Strong City.

“I think the major issue with Strong City is their business model is to assume the contracts that we sign with the funders are going to be honored, without a whole bunch of hiccups, and that has not been the case this last year,” she said. “There have been hiccups on the government side, on the funder side, that complicated things.”

Strong City, formerly Greater Homewood Community Corp., recently moved to the former A. Hoen & Co. Lithograph building in East Baltimore. The Brew reported that Strong City’s revenues have climbed from $3.4 million in 2013, to more than $12 million in 2017. Sponsor fees have in turn risen as well, from $84,400 in 2014 to almost $600,000 in 2017.

CEO Karen Stokes, who led the organization for 14 years, stepped down in April. She could not be reached for comment.

Strong City provided a letter that its board of directors sent in response to concerns. “Simply put, we have made mistakes as an organization, and the past few months have been a time of intense self-reflection for us,” the board wrote. “We have read the impact statements included in your letter, and we acknowledge the difficulty and hurt you have expressed. We particularly acknowledge the impact on Black-led organizations expressed in the letter.”

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