Many applicants for federal juvenile justice grant money that were highly rated by peer reviewers lost out when J. Robert Flores, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, chose lower-rated proposals such as one from the World Golf Association, reports Youth Today. Another nonprofit, the Best Friends Foundation, won one of 11 competitive grants even though it ranked 53rd – putting it behind 41 bids OJJDP rejected.
Youth Today says current and former Department of Justice accuse Flores of repeatedly seeking to fund organizations he favors, regardless of how they are ranked in the competitive bidding process – a process designed to avoid favoritism. One former official said Flores “was bound and determined that he was going to give money to the people he wanted to.” Flores refused comment. “We all play by the rules,” said Earl Dunlap of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, whose losing bid ranked second in the peer ratings out of 129. “The rules for Flores are pretty much whatever he decides when he gets out of bed in the morning.” The discretionary money Flores awarded was available because Congress eliminated most “earmarks” in fiscal 2007 appropriations bills. The golf group’s winning First Tee program teaches skills to young people sich as “maintaining a positive attitude,” “how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences,” and showing respect on and off the course.