Most state money allocated for King-Chavez museum unaccounted for
LOS ANGELES (AP) - More than 80 percent of a $221,200 grant allocated to build a museum honoring civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and labor organizer Cesar Chavez is unaccounted for, said state Controller Steve Westly.
The grant was awarded to the Colour Me Freedom Foundation, which as of Friday could account for only $35,255 in spending on the museum, according to Westly, who is conducting an investigation into whether state officials allocated millions of dollars for pork-barrel projects.
"Auditors will meet with foundation officials to determine how the balance was used and whether the expenditures were appropriate," Westly said in a statement.
Between 1999 and 2002 Gov. Gray Davis and the state Legislature awarded nearly $25 million to Colour Me Freedom and more than 80 other groups for museums, parks and other projects.
Westly began his investigation after it was reported that one group received $500,000 for a community center in San Francisco that was never built.
Westly said that as of Friday Colour Me Freedom had provided a canceled check for $35,255 for the purchase of a portable classroom placed in a parking lot at Crenshaw High School, where the museum is to be erected. The classroom contains a few photos of King and Chavez.
Other canceled checks, for $32,145, were provided, along with documents showing that money was spent for utility connections to the classroom, although it has no electricity.
The Rev. Willie J. Bellamy, who formed Colour Me Freedom in the 1990s, said he plans to open the museum next month and is cooperating with Westly's office.
The millions in grants were handed out at a time when the state had billions of dollars in budget surpluses.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation, which gave the money to Colour Me Freedom at the Legislature's direction, "had no formal policies or procedures to track the status of projects after advance payments were made," according to Westly.
One portable classroom.
A few MLK photos.
Plans to open next month.
I dunno guys - I got a baaaaaaad feeling about this.
~ Me, 10/11/04.