Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney dodged questions yesterday about the city of Boston's decision to audit grant money awarded to the Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III even as he handed the controversial minister's anti-crime group more than a quarter-million dollars in state funds, the Boston Herald reports. Calling the escalating violence in Boston an “epidemic” and a “serious crisis” – shootings are up 75 percent this year over the same six-month period a year ago – Romney awarded $350,000 to the Ella J. Baker House. The money will, in part, fund the minister's plan to employ former convicts to mentor at-risk teens.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ordered an audit of nearly $500,000 in grants Rivers received from the Boston Police Department. Menino also demanded Rivers allow cops to conduct background checks on all Baker House mentors paid with taxpayer cash. “I believe in rehabilitation, but some of these people should be vetted by the Boston Police Department,” Menino said of the former cons who are being paid roughly $40,000 a year by the Baker House to mentor teens. The move came after convicted killer Dennis Winborn, 39, was sentenced to 42 years in prison for firing bullets at two Boston police officers in 2004, a crime he claimed he committed after his grant-funded job at the Baker House ended. Asked if he thought Winborn was an appropriate mentor for troubled kids, Rivers replied: “Could Malcolm X be a good mentor? Nelson Mandela?”