Confirming Earlier Reports, Mayor Scott Announces Award of $1.3 Million in Taxpayer Money to Man in Bankruptcy and Foreclosure

Flanked by departing DPW Director Jason Mitchell and Dept of Planning Director Chris Ryer, Mayor Brandon Scott confirms awarding $1.3 Million of taxpayer money to man in bankruptcy and foreclosure.
Calling it a multi-agency effort Mayor Brandon Scott today announced the Clean Corp initiative, in which he has committed $14.7 Million through the Baltimore Civic Fund to engage six non-profit agencies to provide short-term on-going clean-up services in select neighborhoods beginning some time in 2023 and lasting just past the 2024 mayoral election.

The program has met significant opposition for not providing long-term solutions to public health concerns.  According to the Civic Fund, 33 neighborhoods were eligible for Clean Corps and 15 were selected.  In iTeam Baltimore reporting last week we produced a map depicting the selected neighborhoods for Clean Corp overlaying Mayor Scott’s 2020 election performance (click to view map).  Questions related to the application, evaluation, and selection process have gone unanswered by the Baltimore Civic Fund, with Executive Director HyeSook Chung directing all questions to Department of Planning Director Chris Ryer.

Among the questions asked of Ryer were records request for copies of the applications, as well as explanations of the selection and award process.  All have received no response.

The most questions surround the program’s awardee receiving the largest allocation, The Lazarus Rite ($1,346,390), a single employee owner-operated business.  The owner of The Lazarus Rite, Christopher Robin Ervin, is currently in personal bankruptcy and foreclosure of his home.  The Outsiders Radio Show broke the story on air. The status of Mr. Ervin’s personal affairs, as well as the size and nature of his business calls to question his capacity to manage such a large award of taxpayer funds. 

According to Clean Corps documentation, the selection criteria focused on four key aspects: 1) the capacity of the organization, 2) their previous experience in doing similar work, 3) their communication plan with the neighborhoods, and 4) their workforce development program for the organization’s workers. 

Using publicly available information from IRS Form 990s, iTeam Baltimore constructed side-by-side comparisons of the top three Clean Corp awardees – The Lazarus Rite ($1,346,390), Bon Secours Community Works ($1,012,410), and Civic Works ($780,322).  Deciding on a 3 year look-back, we present three key metrics of organizational capacity:

1) Annual Contributions Received
2) Total Payroll
3) Total Assets

Here are the results:
Using these indicators, it is clear The Lazarus Rite lacks comparable capacity of their peers.  So, how is it possible such glaring differences escaped scrutiny by the Baltimore Civic Fund and Department of Planning? 

Reached by email for comment on the awards Bon Secours Community Works provided the following written statement:

Bon Secours Community Works has been focused on providing programs and services that address the social determinants of health in the West Baltimore community since 1991. Those social determinants include affordable housing, access to healthy food, education and wellness programs, transportation, workforce development and other social determinants that directly affect the community, including maintaining a clean and healthy environment.

As with any grants we apply for, when we responded to the request for applications (RFA) from the Department of Planning and Baltimore Civic Fund, we felt confident that we had the infrastructure, capacity and program design in place to properly serve the community. We were recently awarded a grant through the Clean Corps program to serve three neighborhoods that directly surround Bon Secours’ service facilities in West Baltimore which include Boyd-Booth and Penrose/Fayette St. Outreach, Franklin Square, and Carrolton Ridge. We look forward to meeting the needs of the community and providing local residents with job training that will help us maintain cleaner neighborhoods through this program. We also look forward to continuing our important work of addressing the social determinants of health through the myriad of programs we offer.

Bon Secours Community Works files 990s each year as required by law, and those documents are publicly available

The Lazarus Rite Inc. has not returned repeated calls for comment.

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