The William Penn Foundation has suspended grantmaking to Philadelphia's city agencies, citing an ethics board complaint filed against the foundation by public education advocates, the Philadelphia City Paper reports.
According to City Paper, the city received a letter from the foundation announcing its decision in reference to a grant application seeking funding for a proposed trail extension on the Schuylkill River — a project involving the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, and the John Bartram Association, as well as the Mayor's Fund for Philadelphia, which is involved in related "greenworks" projects. "A citizen complaint was recently filed with the Philadelphia Board of Ethics alleging that certain grantmaking activities of the foundation are regulated by the city's lobbying registration and reporting ordinance," said Helen Davis Picher, the foundation's interim president, in an e-mail. "The foundation wants to ensure our full compliance with the ordinance and is awaiting further clarification with regard to its scope concerning permissible grant activity."
Last December, Parents United for Public Education, the Philadelphia Home and School Council, and the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP filed a complaint alleging that the foundation violated Philadelphia's new lobbying code by failing to register as a principal, along with a number of anonymous private donors, on whose behalf the Boston Consulting Group developed a controversial restructuring plan for the School District of Philadelphia.
Those filing the complaint criticized the foundation's decision to suspend its grantmaking to city agencies. "We are deeply concerned and surprised to hear about William Penn's misplaced action in suspending funding to city agencies," Parents United for Public Education said in a statement. "The complaint says nothing about funding city and city-related agencies that the foundation has in fact funded responsibly for years, but addresses specific violations by one of their now-former officers. It makes no sense to hold libraries and gardens accountable for improper actions for which the foundation itself should assume accountability." Former foundation president Jeremy Nowak, whose strong support for BCG and the school reform agenda proved controversial, resigned in November.