Leadership of the nonprofit Strong City vowed again Monday to emerge from its troubles and be transparent with its client grassroots groups who say their operations were upended through by its poor financial management.
“Our board, leadership, staff have been working tirelessly to identify, isolate and address our challenges,” interim CEO Reginald Davis said at a news conference, flanked by the group’s board of directors. “This work is not easy, nor does it happen instantaneously, but we are confident these changes will allow us to continue innovating, disrupting, advancing and empowering Baltimore city.”
Davis, who joined Strong City in November, and the board gathered outside its new East Baltimore headquarters, one day after The Sun published a report outlining years of questions about the group’s handling of other groups' money through its “fiscal sponsorship” work.
Strong City has helped hundreds of smaller groups obtain funding and also managed their administrative tasks, in exchange for a percentage of the funds. Current and former leaders have said Strong City grew that work too quickly, and that problems were compounded by last year’s ransomware attack on the city and the current pandemic.
But frustrated grassroots programs say Strong City continues to evade accountability and that they are locked in standoffs over accounting discrepancies that in some cases amount to tens of thousands of dollars or more each.
Davis said Monday that the group’s leaders “carry with us the weight of knowing that our actions, or perhaps more accurately our inactions, at times could have added any measure of strain to the lives of those running, working for or benefiting from the uniquely powerful work of organizations with who we partner.”
“We also carry daily a firm resolve to do everything in our power to restore trust in Strong City so that we may continue to be a place where people and organizations can accomplish their vision, empower Baltimore communities and thrive,” he said.
The Baltimore Brew first reported on the organization’s current problems and that the city’s Inspector General is looking into the concerns.
Davis said Strong City remains proud of its efforts, including the redevelopment of the Hoen & Co. building on East Biddle Street that he plans to make available for the community in the coming weeks, and also its census outreach efforts. He spoke over the loud hum of construction equipment, with rowhomes surrounding the building being rehabbed.
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“We are proud to be neighbors and partners in East Baltimore,” Davis said.