Newsmakers for April 2002

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After languishing in the Senate for 10 months, the appointment of John Robert Flores as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJ) is all but assured. Flores faced no opposition from the Senate Judiciary Committee during his hearing March 5, although the committee and full Senate had not acted on his appointment by mid-March. Bush made the nomination last May.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who led the hearing, reminded Flores that the position is not a bully pulpit. Flores has been less than diplomatic in his criticism of the Clinton administration’s prosecution of obscenity law violations, and in 2000 charged that the administration had “furthered the [pornography] industry through a calculated strategy of nonenforcement.” (See “Nose Knows,” June 2001). Flores, a native of Puerto Rico who grew up in New Jersey, left the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1997 after eight years; he was responsible for overseeing the prosecutions and investigations of child sexual abuse and exploitation, obscenity and child prostitution.

“I hope you approach your new job with a results-oriented notion rather than an ideological idea,” Biden told Flores. “You are about to assume the single most important job in the [juvenile justice] system. Be an advocate. You have been in the past, and that’s what I admire about you.”

Campaigning against child porn may be all Flores is able to do with his new position. Virtually all of OJJ’s discretionary grants are tied up in congressional earmarks for next year, Flores might otherwise find himself holed up in his office like the Maytag repairman.

Flores, an attorney with the National Law Center for Children and Families in Fairfax, Va., has also served as an assistant district attorney in New York City.

He told the committee that although his justice experience has been mostly on the prosecuting side, “I believe it is always better to prevent crime than to punish it.”

Flores would be the first permanent administrator since Shay Bilchik left as administrator in February 2000 after six years. Terry Donahue has been at the helm since August. John J. Wilson was acting administrator from February 2000 to August 2001.

Flores shared his hearing with three nominees for positions in the Office of National Drug Control Policy: Mary Ann Solberg, executive director of the Troy Community Coalition for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Michigan, to be deputy director; Barry Crane, project leader for Counterdrug Research at the Institute of Defense Analyses in Alexandria, Va., to be deputy director for supply reduction; and Scott Burns, a county prosecutor in Utah, to be deputy director for state and local affairs.

Like Flores, the drug policy nominees’ confirmations seem a matter of formality.

Sally Stroup has been confirmed as the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education. Stroup was a staff member at the House Committee on Education and the Workforce from 1993 to 2001.

Aside from Stroup and the almost-confirmed Flores and Co., the administration continues its molasses-slow push to finish the confirmation process. Data collected by the Brookings Institution’s Presidential Appointee Initiative show that the Bush administration’s struggle to confirm people to key positions is the slowest in history – although not for a lack of effort.

“The Bush White House has done a heroic job in processing nominations,” says Brookings senior adviser Paul Light, but “there is a clear correlation between the increasing number of presidential appointments and the slowness of the process.” It took an average of 181 days from Inauguration Day to finalize 306 Senate-confirmed cabinet positions.

Some youth-related positions are among those yet to be filled. The chief financial officer slot at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNS) remains vacant, without even a nominee. CNS Chief Operating Officer Wendy Zenker has been handling the day-to-day financial issues, which seems to be working fine: CNS was given its second straight clean audit in March.

Also vacant with no hopeful occupant is the director’s office at the 4-year-old Office of Multifamily Housing Assistance Restructuring (OMHAR). Barbara Chiapella, formerly a deputy, has been OMHAR’s acting director since January, when the agency’s first director, Ira Peppercorn, resigned.

Meanwhile, other nominees are biding their time during a lengthy confirmation process. At the DOJ, Lawrence Greenfield, the nominee for director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, has been waiting since November for Senate approval. More recently, John Brown was nominated in February to be Asa Hutchinson’s deputy administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The president finally found his man for the director’s office at the National Institutes of Health. Bush intends to nominate Elias Zerhouni, executive vice dean at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, to head the Bethesda, Md.-based office that serves as an umbrella for 27 health-related institutes and centers. Zerhouni apparently was a safer pick than Bush family friend and AIDS researcher Anthony Fauci, who, sources told The Washington Post, was deemed “insufficiently pro-life” and was vehemently opposed by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Of the 27 institute directors within the NIH, six have left in two years. On the bright side, NIH is slated for a hefty $27 billion budget increase by the president. (301) 496-4000,

Johnny and Ed are back together again, but this time Carson will be watching his former sidekick on TV with a new Johnny: Attorney General John Ashcroft. Former “Tonight Show” sidekick and “Star Search” host Ed McMahon will appear in commercials to promote the Neighborhood Watch Program, which would double in size under the president’s USA Freedom Corps initiative. Efforts to implement terrorist detection on the local level, replacing crime beats? You are correct, sir!


Lisa Versaci has joined the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (assets: $1.9 billion) to direct their new National Venture Fund, which will support innovative national opportunities, including those in the youth field. Versaci comes to Knight after a five-year stint as vice-president (and Florida director) of People for the American Way Foundation, a left-of-center civil liberties organization. Also joining Knight is Joe Ervin. The former state network director for the D.C.-based Center for Policy Alternatives, Ervin will split responsibility with Gary Burger in overseeing the Community Partners program’s eight program officers. Contact: (305) 908-2600,

The Flint, Mich.-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (assets: $2.5 billion) put sound financial footing to an adolescent pregnancy prevention program when it announced a $3.5 million grant to New York City’s Children’s Aid Society (CAS) for their CAS-Carrera model. Developed by Dr. Michael Carrera, CAS’s director of human sexuality training, the program incorporates sexual education issues with career and future planning that Carrera describes as an “above the waist” approach to empowering kids to make their own choices. The grant will establish five regional training centers, each in large urban areas, to manage about seven local programs. The CAS-Carrera replication program is estimated to cost $10 million over five years, with foundations such as Robin Hood, Annie E. Casey and Picower Institute (Manhasset, N.Y.) chipping in. Contact Mott: (810) 238-5651,

While Mott implements its large, urban-centered effort, New England grant-maker Nellie Mae Foundation will pour $4.6 million into after-school program development for disadvantaged middle school students in New Hampshire. “Out-of-School Matters!” will be headed by the Chichester, N.H.-based Plus Time. Contact Nellie Mae: (781) 348-4240,

Former Association of School Business Officials Director Don Tharpe will become chief operating officer at the D.C.-based Council on Foundations. Tharpe assumes the reins at the 100-staff, $15 million operation from Al Lenhardt, now Sergeant-At-Arms for the U.S. Senate.

The council also gave out two awards in March. Its Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking went to Marie Wilson, president of the Ms. Foundation for Women. The Distinguished Grantmaker Award went to Mott Foundation CEO Bill White. Contact Council: (202) 466-6512,

The Jessie Ball duPont Fund named Sharon Greene its new senior program officer in charge of education. Greene, who has spent her career working with educational administration for research institutions, as well as for independent schools and colleges, will oversee the 87 education grant recipients who receive about $3.4 million annually. Contact: (904) 353-0890,

After filing for bankruptcy, the Kmart Corp. put its corporate giving program on hold indefinitely. Kmart had four active grant-making programs: the Fund for Kids, Fund for Communities, Fund for Metropolitan Detroit and the Family Foundation.


It was no surprise when Judy Samelson, former Charles Stewart Mott Foundation vice president, was named the first executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, a coalition promoting after-school programs with a $4 million annual budget. Samelson, a former journalist, has been the acting director for the alliance since 1999, when it was created with J.C. Penney, Open Society Institute and others as part of Mott’s partnership with the Department of Education to promote the 21st Century Community Learning Center (which has gone from $1 million in 1996 to $1 billion in fiscal year 2002). Contact: (202) 296-9378,

Kathleen Selz, president of the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (NASCC) for the past 10 years, resigned in February. Selz says she is “pleased to have taken a small, struggling non-profit” and built it into a prominent influence within the national service and youth employment fields. In 1991, the NASCC office had two staffers with a $200,000 budget provided by the Mott, Ford and DeWitt foundations. On Selz’s watch, the organization expanded to its current 120 members, 13 staffers and $3 million operating budget. While the board searches for her replacement, veteran D.C. consultant Gene Sofer is serving as interim president. Sofer, a partner with the consulting firm Susquehanna Group and former director of congressional relations for the Corporation for National Service, served a combined 13 years as a senior staff member for the House Budget Committee and Education and Labor Committee, helping to create the National Service Acts of 1990 and 1993. Contact: (202) 737-6272,

Buzz Schmidt, the founder of the Williamsburg, Va.-based Guidestar, a key resource for learning about the business affairs of nonprofits, is stepping down as president. Former Public Broadcasting Service Chief Operating Officer Robert Ottenhoff will replace Schmidt, who will continue to serve as CEO and chairman of the board. Contact: (757) 229-4631,


At a conference last year about the Bush administration’s approach to anti-violence campaigns, American University (AU) student and anti-violence activist Ben Gelt said, “It’s time to get back to teaching our children what’s right.” Gelt’s credibility on “what’s right” took a turn for the worse last month when Washington, D.C., police arrested him along with five other AU students.

The students were charged with intent to distribute or possession of marijuana after police seized drugs, a car and $15,000 in cash. Police say the students, targets of a two-month undercover investigation, allegedly had been selling ecstasy, opium and marijuana for months. Gelt’s father, Howard Gelt, is the former state Democratic chairman in Colorado. The younger Gelt took a year off before college to work with partner David Winkler in leading the Denver-based SAFE Students (Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic).

Robert Kelly, known simply to millions of R&B fans as R. Kelly, is being investigated in connection with a video sent to the Chicago Sun-Times showing him having sex with a girl purported to be 14 years old. Kelly and his lawyer have publicly denied the authenticity of the tape, with Kelly adding that it is the work of friends-turned-enemies. Kelly recently faced charges for a statutory rape case involving a 17-year-old former Epic Records intern. Kelly is no longer slated to participate in the upcoming Urban Aid 2, a benefit concert to raise money for AIDS awareness.


Kent Keith has probably inspired the virtuous deeds of thousands of youth workers around the globe – although none of them know it yet. Keith, the vice president of the metropolitan YMCA in Honolulu, recently discovered that maxims in a book he published and copyrighted as a Harvard student 30 years ago have become popular mantras across the country. Keith realized that his words were being attributed to world icons when a fellow Rotary Club member used his words – “The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.” – and cited Mother Theresa as the source. Keith recently inked a deal with Penguin Putnam for a $300,000 advance for book due out in May.