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BOC to decide nonprofit funding

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS -- Public funding for the nonprofit Ceek To Fulfill is one of several items the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will take up at its meeting rescheduled for Tuesday.

The BOC's first voting session of the year was canceled last Tuesday due to the inclement weather. The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the BOC Assembly Hall at 901 N. Main St.

Ceek To Fulfill's proposed funding as part of the county's 2011 budget has been a contentious issue since questions were brought up by residents over whether the funding was politically connected.

Ceek To Fulfill's funding was separated from other groups receiving funding and tabled in December. The original request for Ceek To Fulfill was $35,000 for the first year of receiving public funding. Commissioner JaNice Van Ness got support to keep funding of all nonprofits to 2010 levels and sought to drop Ceek to Fulfill to $5,000.

County Commission Chairman Richard Oden sought $20,000 and argued the group had done good works in the community and deserved more funding.

Commissioner Oz Nesbitt abstained from voting after a county resident raised concerns over Cheryl Board, a contract worker of Ceek To Fulfill organizing a Christmas party for him. Evidence was also presented at the Dec. 14 meeting that Ceek To Fulfill shared the same offices with the Democratic Party of Rockdale County.

Oden and Nesbitt are Democrats and Van Ness is a Republican.

Board was also hired by BOC Democratic candidate Courtney Dillard earlier this year to be his campaign's youth programs director. Dillard lost to Van Ness in the Nov. 2 general election.

Ceek To Fulfill Executive Director Evelyn Cooksey defended her group during the BOC's Jan. 4 work session. Although she and Oden did not use Board's name during discussions, it was obvious they were referring to her and the concerns brought up during last month's meeting.

Cooksey discussed the success of her group in working with young people, particularly those coming out of a foster home, to become self-sufficient through life skills training and job placement. She added Ceek To Fulfill has been in the community since 2005 and has four staff employees and said Board served as a contractor.

"Are any of your full-time employees involved in any other community activities? Is there a contractor involved in other community activities, are you willing to discuss that?" Oden asked.

"I prefer not to because it has no relevance on the work that Ceek To Fulfill does. If you want me to, I will, but I want things based upon what we do and what we're capable of doing and on the track record of the organization, period," she said.

Oden continued and said "some strange things have happened" concerning Ceek To Fulfill and he wanted to find out more from Cooksey.

"Those strange things are totally false. That's why I have not come before you before today to address it," Cooksey said. "I don't have to address something that's not valid. I believe that's a truthful stance. It's totally false allegations and anyone who knows Ceek To Fulfill knows that is a false allegation."

Van Ness asked Oden to clarify what was the "strange allegation." Oden said the allegation concerned whether Board was either an employee or contractor for Ceek To Fulfill.

"I don't think the public necessarily knows (the difference between) contractor or employee, so why is that a strange allegation?" Van Ness said. "If you represent a company, which that person did, that's not unusual."

Cooksey added that the perception was the problem and that Board was a contractor and "what a person does in their free time is their business ... what she did in her personal work did not represent the nonprofit."

Van Ness countered if a person presents herself as a representative of a group or company, regardless of whether she is an employee or not, the public acknowledges the association.