The Portland chapter of the NAACP is demanding that a high-profile youth training program be shut down until its books can be inspected.
The NAACP's demand was issued after Worksystems Inc. held a sparsely attended "community meeting" last week to discuss troubles at the Youth Opportunity Center--a meeting that was not advertised in the local press and drew just a handful of participants.
"It was disgraceful," says Robert Larry, vice-president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP, who heard about the meeting at the last moment. "It wasn't really a chance for the community to air their concerns."
Questions have hovered over the YO Center, which is operated by WSI, since WW revealed last month that just 63 youths out of almost 1,000 had actually landed full-time, family-wage jobs (see "Selena Worrell Was Robbed," July 3, 2002). The article also showed that many students were paid to show up and that donations paid for a feng shui consultant.
The NAACP described YO as an "attempt by WSI and the city of Portland to demonstrate that these types of programs can't be run effectively by Blacks. This is untrue and measures should be taken to never ever hire a 'token' Black to run an organization and millions of dollars again."
The YO Center's former executive director, Antoinette Edwards, told WW she was hired as a "token" without the authority to run the program.
David Squire, chairman of WSI's board of directors, says the NAACP's criticism has no merit. "We're disappointed so few people took the opportunity to participate," he told WW.
WSI's board of directors is scheduled to vote on the future of the YO Center on Sept. 12.