That’s what State Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia) said in response to requests for comments about the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp., or OARC. Evans, who founded the nonprofit organization designed to help the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia, said he was not aware of any investigation by the FBI.
According to four individuals with adverse dealings with OARC, however, the FBI is snooping around OARC, focusing particularly on the organization’s finances.
“They indicated they were investigating multiple things, but they did not reveal what those were,” Peter Meadow, who was interviewed by the FBI about OARC, said. Meadow is a lawyer who represented Sadiki Travick, who co-owned a restaurant with OARC.
“They don’t give you much information,” Germantown publisher Foster said of the FBI agents “But I have to say I got the feeling there was activity going on. They focused a lot on nonprofits and certainly on OARC and their operations.” Foster’s neighborhood newspapers published articles critical of OARC.
Evans, a powerful state representative and a close Wolf ally, does not run OARC; in fact, he is not even a board member. What he has done as a legislator is help deliver tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to the nonprofit based in his 203rd district–$29 million in state funds since 2000.
Major questions have arisen, and perhaps prompted an FBI investigation, about the use of that money. A state investigation into OARC ended with the nonprofit giving $1.2 million back to the state government and forgoing an addition $1.8 million that would have gone to OARC. The organization admitted no wrongdoing as a part of the settlement. The City of Philadelphia claims that OARC still owes them $256,000 for jazz festivals held in 2010 and 2011. According to one confidential report submitted to the state Inspector General’s Office, OARC improperly used $12 million in state grants between 2006 and 2011.
One incident pointed out by the state investigators was state money used to promote Wine Down Wednesdays at OARC’s and Travick’s restaurant. In total, $110,000 over two years to sponsor this event at the restaurant.
“They asked questions about OARC and the money OARC allocated to the restaurant,” Travick said. “They wanted to know how the money was spent.”
The FBI may continue to ask questions about OARC; voters, meanwhile, may begin to ask questions about State Rep. Dwight Evans’ use of state money. Evans was Democratic Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee but was voted out in 2010 because his colleagues felt he was granting too much money to his own district.