Casino Grant Requests: Church, Con-Man’s Charity Seek $ from Cecil County Impact Aid
Cecil County Commissioners are scheduled on Tuesday to review aid requests from non-profit groups for pieces of a $500,000 pie of local impact aid from the Hollywood Casino in Perryville, including a church seeking a new roof and a youth-oriented group– founded by a convicted federal felon and con-man– that has amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in other local and state grants in the two years of its existence.
A small advisory group recently reviewed applications for the local non-profit grants, which for the first time were opened up to organizations and programs from throughout the county. Last year—the first time such grants were offered—the grants were limited to western Cecil County groups only, located near the casino.
Unlike last year, when all applicants were assigned points ratings on the basis of local impact criteria, this year’s recommended list does not provide relative rankings. Instead, the County Commissioners were presented on 7/3/12 with a recommended list of grantees in categories such as public safety, “prevention, education, training, youth” and “public service, economic/ community development.”
Most of the applicants are well-known local charities and groups with a solid record of community service. For example, the highly-regarded Ray of Hope Mission—which operates a food pantry, counseling and support services for low-income families in the western county—was proposed for one of the largest grants—$48,380. Despite its name, the group is not a religious or church-owned organization, although various churches do contribute to support its broad services to poor people in the county.
Other recommended grant applicants included local towns and emergency services groups, including $25,000 for the town of Port Deposit for aid to restore the Tome Gas House as a visitor’s center, and emergency defibrillators in Port Deposit via Water Witch Fire Co., for $25,000. In addition, the recommended grants include $20,000 for the Plumpton Park Zoo, for a giraffe house and education center for the legendary “Jimmy” the giraffe, a project that also received a $100,000 state matching bond allocation in the past legislative session.
Meanwhile, the grant proposals recommended by the small advisory panel include $10,000 for roof repairs for the Principio Methodist Church. Asked why one religious institution should receive funds for a roof repair, Vicky Rinkerman, the executive assistant to the County Commissioners who served as liaison to the advisory panel, said that the group felt the small-congregation church was “an important part of the community.”
That request could open the door to every church and religious organization in the county seeking taxpayer money for capital improvement projects—a prospect that could overwhelm the VLT grant program and raise separation of church and state legal issues.
Then there is the $20,500 recommended lottery grant to a relatively new “charity” in Elkton, variously known as “Daddy Does, Inc.” and “Project Crossroad,” co-located at 130 East Main St. in Elkton—groups founded by Robert Kossak, a convicted federal felon and con-man who was sentenced to five years in federal prison for ripping off elderly and disabled people—including a blind woman and a man in an oxygen tent– as part of what federal prosecutors said was a mortgage scam operation.
[SEE federal court documents here: http://www.ded.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions/gms/2003/august/02-64.pdf
Kossak’s Elkton operations have had a meteoric rise in the past two years, shortly after his release from federal custody, largely due to county and state grants—mostly sanctioned by the county’s state-established Department of Social Services.
According to county budget tallies, Kossak’s “Daddy Does, Inc.” subsidiary received a total of $182,568 in funds disbursed by Cecil County in the just completed Fiscal 2012 budget year, for four categories of youth services. Most of that money was funneled through state grants, sources said.
Then, Cecil County Commissioners’ 9/6/11 meeting minutes show approval of several county-posted “request for proposal” monetary awards totaling $126,936 paid to Project Crossroad for three projects, for “disruptive youths,” “life skills,” and “out of school” youths in Elkton.
In all, both tallies total $309,504 in taxpayer funds to the organization/s in just the past year.
Beth Creek, executive director of Project Crossroad, told Cecil Times that the organization has helped “500 youths” during its existence and she questioned the county budget tally of its accumulated grant funding in the past nearly two years, but did not offer contrary accountings.
Federal IRS documents and the Guidestar online charity tracking website show no listings for Project Crossroad, and Creek said the group was in the process of changing its federal non-profit status from the “Daddy Does” listing to its newer Project Crossroad identity. She said that Project Crossroad was a “division” of “Daddy Does” during its previous funding receipts. Those federal records show the organization was founded in 2010, with a Hockessin, DE address. The only federal report of its finances on file shows only $8,225 in income, for 2010, and did not list any government grants as income.
While Kossak is listed on the federal filings as president of the organization, Creek said he is no longer the president of the group but remains active as a youth “counselor” and speaker for the organization.
[UPDATE: County Social Services officials have advised county officials inquiring about Project Crossroad/Daddy Does that the organization(s) received $210,616 in Fiscal 2012 through the county's "Local Management Board" which oversees and dispenses human services spending and grants. That money was funneled from the Governor's Office for Children.]