Each year the City of Loveland distributes nearly half a million dollars in city general fund monies to charity groups working within the community along with other federal grants monies provided to the city.
The funds are routinely distributed according to the recommendations of the city’s Human Services Commission and the Affordable Housing Commission both comprised of volunteers who meet under the direction and guidance of city staff. The city’staff liaison, Darcy McClure, organizes the process and assists the volunteer commissioners in making their recommendations.
After the applications are reviewed and accepted, the city council normally appropriates the money according to the two committees’ recommendations. Last year and again tonight, however, the recommendations erupted into controversy as some on the city council questioned the recommendation by the Human Services Commission not to provide funding to the Loveland based charity organization called the Disabled Resource Services.
Darcy McClure, Loveland’s Director of Human Services, wields considerable influence within the volunteer committee making the recommendations. McClure’s influence in the process is considerable as is the case with city staff oversight of most volunteer commissions. The Loveland charity was disqualified from funding not through any formal process but instead a whisper campaign regarding the efficacy of the organization and final disposition of non-profit dollars raised by the organization.
Thus the Disabled Resource Services of Loveland was again turned down for funding for the second year in a row by the all volunteer city Human Services Commission.
LovelandPolitics was informed last year that McClure had informed members of the city council individually of her concerns regarding the stability of the organization’s leader and questioned whether dollars contributed would indeed be used for charitable purposes. Instead of making these accusations public so the group could respond, McClure has quietly guided the process in an almost make believe fashion that the group simply isn’t selected for funding each year due only to limited resources by the city which begs the question why they are treated differently by outside observers..
Klassen Challenges Decision
Councilman Klassen may have never received the memo that the group was being black-listed from funding and was therefore surprised by the harsh response from Councilwoman Johnson when the group sought to appeal the Human Services Commission recommendation to council.
Klassen reacted during tonight's city council meeting when the funding recommendations were presented to council, by stating for the record “A severe injustice has been done to the disability board and it must be made public.”
Klassen read emphatically from prepared remarks that appealed to his fellow councilors not to blindly accept the Human Services Commission’s recommendations but instead proposed making slight changes that would allow the group in question to receive even token support from the city. Klassen emphasized that by doing so the council would not be showing any disrespect towards the volunteer commissioners as was earlier argued since they routinely amend recommendations made to council by volunteer boards and commissions.
He explained that feeding everyone with $450,000 was like the biblical story of Christ feeding the masses with a loaf of bread so the council was put into a difficult position every year as a number of organizations do not receive funding. Nonetheless, Klassen alluded to Councilor Johnson’s email by calling her response to the Disabled Resource Services appeal of the city's decision not to fund the group as , “... insulting and out of order.”
Klassen continued by asking his colleagues, “Does this city council have the right to amend, change or adjust recommendations that come to us by the boards and commissions?” Klassen discussed the previous placement of the controversial sculpture called the triangle that was overturned by council despite protests by the well regarded volunteer Visual Arts Commission. In addition, Klassen referred to the many changes his colleagues make to recommendations by Loveland’s all volunteer Planning Commission. Referring to the McClure guided Human Services Commission Klassen asked “Are their recommendations infallible….are they beyond appeal?”
Klassen read from Johnson’s earlier correspondence about the charity in question that stated, “If we allow their poor behavior to rule the day” than we are rewarding bad behavior. Klassen continued, “I make no apology in bringing public attention to this council error.”
Councilwoman Joan Shaffer stated she reviewed the applications and found “a number of real groups that have value but were not funded.” She commented “that is disturbing to me” that no substance abuse prevention groups are being funded. She added that every six days someone commits suicide in Larimer County but the city is not funding the $5,000 for the suicide prevention line that assists 80 people in Loveland each year.
Shaffer continued, “you really are caught between a rock and a hard spot” in that we can’t fund everyone every year. “This councilor is looking to increase funding in future years…” Shaffer commented, “I agree with you Daryle that we have every right and responsibility to be thorough …..I am concerned that for two years in a row the disability organization has not been funded.”
Shaffer, despite making sympathetic comments to her colleague Daryle Klassen, concluded, “I have reviewed the process and interviewed people and think a fair process occurred.” Shaffer again reiterated, however, that she felt “it is difficult for the council to say there is no funding for the Disabled Resources Services.”
Human Services Commission Members Speak Out
Jennifer Bohlander, the Vice Chair of the Human Services Commission that decided not to fund the group made some interesting defenses of the decision and appeared emphatic about not funding Disability Resource Services. Klassen told Bohlander, “In response to your invitation to attend the meetings I tried last year and was blasted for that. Those who appealed were roundly criticized and called names” Klassen continued to which Bohlander responded, “I cannot respond to that” to which Klassen commented, “ I know that because you didn’t do it” again alluding to Councilor Johnson’s reaction to the group’s appeal to council by email.
Carol Johnson sat quietly while Klassen discussed with the city attorney his intention to make a motion to allocate monies for both the disability group he was supporting and the drug prevention programs that both councilors Joan Shaffer and Kathleen McEwen expressed earlier in the meeting regret were not funded in the current recommendations.
Councilman Klassen's Proposal
Klassen at first proposed $2,000 for substance abuse prevention and $4,000 for Disabled Resource Services of Loveland. Shaffer and McEwen both expressed concern about departing from the commission’s recommendations informing Klassen they could not support his amendment to the appropriations of the community grants.
Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez provided perhaps the most cogent argument of the evening against Klassen's assertions by telling his colleagues that other groups that were not funded received higher scores than the Disabled Resource Services so he was not able to support a motion that ignored the order of the scores allocated to each group by the commission. Gutierrez stated“skipping over more qualified charities would present a problem for me."
Jennifer Bohlander continued countering Klassen’s arguments for the motion from the audience despite the fact public comment had already been concluded. The awkwardness came when Jennifer disclosed her opposition to ANY city money being made available to the group regardless of the source of the funds and whether the other funding recommendations would be impacted. This contradicted her earlier assertions that the group was simply passed over for lack of funds and no other motives by the commissioners. As the evening wore on and Klassen continued pressing his case her funding limits argument appeared contrived and incoherent.
Finally, Councilwoman Carol Johnson jumped-in by stating the city is no different than any other “foundation like the Pomar” that doesn’t reconsider funding groups that complain “or show ingratitude” towards the city when they don’ t receive funding. Joan Shaffer immediately corrected Johnson by explaining the city is “not a foundation but is instead spending public funds” therefore Shaffer said she is comfortable with the discussion and the ability of any group to appeal the recommendation in a public and open process without the kind of punitive retaliation Johnson appeared to be defending.
Klassen moved to amend the motion to approve the commission's recommendation and add a $4,000 supplemental to the disabled services funding and received a second to his motion from Councilwoman Donna Rice thus forcing the council to vote on his recommendation. The vote failed 7-2 with only Klassen and Rice voting for the amendment to the appropriations. The overall appropriation of the recommended grants by the commission passed unanimously immediately following the vote on Klassen's amendment..
Klassen Struggles To Get Funding For Disabled Resource Services