City Council decides to give PALS $20,000. Receives complaints claiming their decision appears racist.

By Melissa Jewett, Publisher

A supermajority allows the City Council to overturn decisions by the Planning and Zoning Commission. This year, there was an aberration in the Charter Review Commission’s recommendations. The City Council overturned CRC recommendations.

And yet, according to Open Records, the Human Services Advisory Board has taken issue with the City Councils’ vote on Tuesday, December 07, 2021, Human Services Grant Funding allocation.

Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?
Human Services Advisory Board members have lobbied the City Council for additional funding for one particular church.

Due to disagreements with their awarded grant funding, San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson has added an agenda item to discuss funding to the First Baptist San Marcos organization Outreach Ministry during their Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 meeting.

First Baptist Church NBC in an email to the San Marcos City Council on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, “Could a suggestion be to remove in equal parts to total the amount of $10,000 from each award recipient or the Council has general funds they may be able to use to cover PALS request of $10,000.”

First Baptist Church NBC has received significantly more funding than most organizations. Is this an equitable solution to “remove in equal parts to total the amount of $10,000 from each award recipient” for PALS?

The First Baptist San Marcos organization Mission Able requested $123,500 and they received zero funding per the recommendation of the Human Services Advisory Board.

On the other hand, First Baptist Church NBCOutreach Ministry requested $150,000 with a recommendation of the Human Services Advisory Board of $150,000 and final approval of $91,000.

The city website provides a spreadsheet of the disparity between other organizations and funding approval by the Human Services Advisory Board.

 


 


According to the City of San Marcos website the Human Services Advisory Board

To develop and enhance human services in San Marcos. Makes recommendations to City Council for funding to human services agencies.

Appointment requirement:
7 members will be voting members (must be citizens) 
1 non-voting member (person with a degree in social work with experience in social service administration, must be a citizen)”

November 16, 2021, Human Services Advisory Board Meeting, JoAnn Parsons explains how she made phone calls outside of the recorded zoom Human Advisory Board Meetings on behalf of First Baptist Church NBC with two other voting members.

“Oh, we had some discrepancies. For the outreach ministry. For First Baptist Church, we had three at $100,000. We had one at $75,000. And we had two at $90,000. So I called Carolyn asked if she would give if she consider an average score. And she said she would an average score is $92,500. And so that’s still in the high range for the $100,000 and the $90,000. And it’s also in an acceptable range for Eleanor who voted at $75,000 I also called Eleanor today, and I discussed this with her. And she said if the board and I say if I will, I won’t put any words from her mouth. She said, if the board agrees to the $92,500 for First Baptist Church, she said that she would agree as well. I think that’s an acceptable amount since we couldn’t all come to an agreement on $100,000.”

After the city council meeting on Tuesday, December 07, 2021, the Human Services Advisory Board members called each other and sent in emails. Mary Earls Human Services Advisory Board Co-Chair states,

“I am requesting that you put those funds back in for First Baptist Church and use other funds at your disposal. I’m telling you that the aggressive move made by one council person is looking like something racist was going on with that demand to pull funds from First Baptist church. After receiving a call from the chair of the HSB with serious concerns about what she witnessed at the city council meeting on Tuesday.”

 


Alfretta Lee of the Human Services Advisory Board sent an email advising the City Council that organizations are already budgeting based on the Human Services Advisory Board vote.

Why were nonprofits notified of funding and who notified them of funding prior to the City Council vote?

Alfretta Lee states, “I feel this would be a better option than to single out one organization to take funding from, especially after the organization has been notified of a specific funding amount and may already be budgeting for its upcoming year.”


 


Long Term Recommendations

  • The City of San Marcos should not be giving taxpayer money to Churches, or it is violating Separation of Church and State.
  • Human Services Advisory Board contact information should be available on the website.
  • Applications should require documented programming success available for the public to review at the city website.
  • Full disclosure of all applications should be inserted in the city council packet for the public to review.
  • The Human Services Advisory Board should be required to make a presentation to the city council with applicants present to answer questions.
  • The city should host workshops for nonprofits on how to maintain their nonprofit status.

Short Term Recommendations for December 15, 2021, City Council Meeting

  • Tuesday night agenda item 24, “Hold a discussion regarding additional funding for outreach ministry to First Baptist NBC, and provide direction to the City Manager” should have had the emails sent to the City Council by the Human Services Advisory Board and First Baptist Church NBC included at the interactive agenda and packet.
  • Tuesday night agenda item 24, “Hold a discussion regarding additional funding for outreach ministry to First Baptist NBC, and provide direction to the City Manager.” should be tabled and placed back on the agenda as a public hearing item. This was a public hearing item originally. Is changing the rules for First Baptist Church NBC equitable?
  • All applications should be re-reviewed with the board present to answer questions. All organizations should be fully vetted. For example, there are discrepancies for the application submitted by Minorities for Equality in Economy, Education, Liberty, and Justice: Iron Sharpens Iron.

The organization “Minorities for Equality in Economy, Education, Liberty, and Justice: Iron Sharpens Iron” also applied for grant funding and was rated low score of 1 out of 5 in their program evaluation by the majority of the board members.

In their grant application, Iron Sharpens Iron describes their program’s mission statement as, “to provide opportunities for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated persons, regardless of previous educational and/or criminal background; while helping them to redirect, restore and reconnect as responsible and employable members of society.”

The new program Iron Sharpens Iron originally requested $120,000 in grant funding and was given $60,000 in Human Services Grant Funding. The Human Services Advisory Board also recommended that Iron Sharpens Iron works with the First Baptist Church.



Latreese Cooke, Executive Director and Founder of Iron Sharpens Iron stated in the grant application that the Hays County Sheriff’s Department contacted Iron Sharpens Iron and expressed interest in working with the organization.

November 16, 2021, Human Services Advisory Board member JoAnn Parsons states that “And also, she is working with the sheriff’s department right now just on her own because they solicited her. And they also referred her to apply for this grant,” said Parsons. “I’m sure she’s already partnered with the sheriff’s office. And so I’m sure that if she needs any help in any other area, I’m sure that they will be there for her.”



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San Marcos Corridor News has contacted the Hays County Sheriff’s Department and confirmed that “In reference to the program you are referring to, neither myself nor my command are familiar with it.”

“She is working on a budget of a half of a million four hundred and fifty thousand dollars for Austin,” said Parsons. This information was not available in the application packet. Which begs the question how did Board member Parsons obtain this information?

There are also statements by Mary Earls in the November 09, 2021, Human Services Advisory Board meeting about emails from Latreese Cooke from Minorities for Equality in Economy, Education, Liberty, and Justice: Iron Sharpens Iron.

Those emails were not provided to the other board members in the meeting for the public to also review. This can be viewed as lobbying and board members should have refrained from any communication with applicants.

Those emails were used to advocate for funding for Iron Sharpens Iron. The Human Services Advisory Board member’s contact information or email addresses are not available on the city website.

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