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Agency lands bidless grant Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Mar 05 2011 12:00 PM

The Chula Vista City Council approved two resolutions unanimously Tuesday, waiving a selection process and giving more than $500,000 to a local nonprofit organization.

The California Emergency Management funds will directly benefit South Bay Community Services and the Chula Vista Police Department in their joint effort to prevent domestic violence and gang involvement.

Nearly 20 people showed up at the council meeting to encourage the council's decision to approve the appropriation of $549,519. But one resident said he has an issue with the process.

Peter Watry said there should be a competitive bid for the money.

"Here we go again handing out huge amounts of money with no accountability," he said.

Watry clarified that he does not have a problem with the services South Bay Community Services provides, but rather the fact that a significant amount of money was too easily given away.

In addition, Watry took issue with some aspects of the way SBCS conducts business, referring to a recent article in the San Diego Reader, in which former employees stated the nonprofit engages in document falsification and sloppy record keeping.

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox asked Watry to clarify his concern.

Watry said he wished South Bay didn't cheat so much. "I wish they had gone out to competitive bids," he said. "This cozy relationship is wrong."

Watry said he's tired of "buddy-buddy" deals going on in the city, referencing police Chief David Bejarano's prior involvement on the organization's board and more currently, retired Chula Vista Police Capt. Don Hunter's employment with South Bay Community Services.

South Bay Community Services President Kathryn Lembo said since 1982, the organization and the city of Chula Vista have worked on hundreds, maybe thousands of grant opportunities together.

For both the previous two-year grant for domestic violence and gang reduction intervention, which ended in 2010, as well as the current grant, South Bay identified the funding source and wrote the grants to apply to the state in a partnership with the Chula Vista Police Department.

"South Bay Community Services has a long and well respected history with the Chula Vista Police Department," Lembo said.

Lembo said Watry shouldn't make accusations unless he has proof. "We are not cheaters," she said.

Mauricio Torre, a youth support services director at South Bay Community Services, spoke to the success of the last two-year grant for gang reduction.

"We were contracted to serve 50 youth, but we actually ended up serving 258 youth," Torre said. "Of that 258, 164 youth terminated gang involvement... 198 demonstrated increased participation in school and school-related activities."

Robert Bleisch, assistant principal at Mar Vista High School, said the nonprofit is responsible for the lack of gang presence from the Lincoln Acre boy gang.

Kim Sprewell, a resident at a South Bay shelter in National City, said the organization is like a wrap-around service.

"They have helped me retain the tools I need so that I can be a productive member of society," she said.

Deputy Mayor Rudy Ramirez said the resolution for the gang reduction services, which focus on prevention rather than intervention, did not provide much information. "Prevention is a difficult thing to measure," he said.

Lembo offered reporting back to council every six months with an update.

Cox asked had there been other bidders would the police department entertain their participation.

According to Chula Vista Police Capt. Gary Wedge, there was no opportunity for other agencies to apply for the grant.

"It appears there's a justification for providing you as the sole source for this grant," Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar told agency representatives. However, she asked that in the future staff look out for opportunities with other organizations.

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