Another week, another DOJ investigation of itself.
The latest, reported this morning by the Washington Post, involves J. Robert Flores, the Administrator at the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, who has been the subject of a recent series of articles by ABC News investigating grants awarded by his office.
Flores is facing a federal criminal investigation for questions arising from “his hiring practices, travel expenses, and personal ties to groups which he gave millions of dollars” the Post reports.
ABC documented several questionable grant awards by Flores. He gave the World Golf Foundation’s First Tee Initiative a grant, after the group invited him on a trip and paid for him to play a round of golf. The group’s honorary chairman is former President George H. Bush. Though Flores reimbursed the organization for the $159 in green’s fees, he did so only yesterday — hours before his Congressional testimony.
Flores awarded a half-million dollar grant to First Tee, despite it ranking 47th out of 104 applicants and being “not recommended” by staff who said they “didn’t understand how funding this program would advance juvenile justice.” The decision was openly rebuked by members of the committee.
“The foundation paid for your greens fees and then the next year you disregard the recommendations of your professional staff and award the foundation a half-million dollar federal grant. You have tainted the process,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Of the 104 applicants ranked by the peer review process, Flores failed to award grants to any of those in the top five. Rather, Flores gave funding to five programs, not recommended by staff, including an abstinence education program called Best Friends, led by Elaine Bennett, the wife of Reagan administration Cabinet official Bill Bennett. Two faith based programs were also selected.
Mr. Flores awarded a $1.1 million grant to the Best Friends Foundation, an abstinence- only organization, that ranked 53 out of 104 applications. The career staff who reviewed this application said it was “poorly written,” “had no focus,” “was illogical,” and “made no sense.”
Flores testified to the distribution of over $8 million in department grants. According to emails and testimony from Flores’ own staff in the office of Juvenile Justice, as well as the peer review board that ranks the grants, the grant administration was distinctly slanted.
“Mr. Flores, it seems you’re the only person at the Department of Justice who thinks your process was fair, transparent and served the interest of taxpayers,” Waxman concluded.