A former top official in the White House’s faith-based office was awarded a lucrative Department of Justice grant under pressure from two senior Bush administration appointees, ABC News reports. The $1.2 million grant was jointly awarded to a consulting firm run by Lisa Trevino Cummins who previously headed Hispanic outreach for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and a California evangelical group, Victory Outreach. The grant was awarded over the objections of career Justice Department staff who did not believe that Victory Outreach was qualified for the grant and that too great an amount of the funds was going to Cummins’ consulting company instead of on services for children.
Cummins’ company, Urban Strategies LLC, was to get one third of the money for helping the self-described “evangelizing” Victory Outreach use the rest of the funds. The grant is central to a Justice Department probe into alleged irregular contracting practices within its own ranks. It was awarded by J. Robert Flores, administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) who is under investigation by the Justice Department Inspector General after current and former employees said he awarded grants to programs based on right political and ideological connections. OJJDP grants are intended to address juvenile delinquency prevention and the juvenile justice system. Meanwhile, Youth Today reports that Michele DeKonty, OJJDP chief of staff, was fired after she took the Fifth Amendment in the probe of grant awards by the agency.