"If you look beyond the deliberately misleading headlines and the numerous inferences and innuendos, there's not much there in their story," she said. "They reduce 30 years of Dwight Evans' hard work to revitalize this formerly blighted community to a headline of indictments."
The article cited an investigation commissioned by the state Office of Inspector General that said OARC made questionable real estate purchases, violated regulations by doling out state money in no-bid "consulting fees," could not document thousands of dollars more in expenses, and rewrote and spent grants without approval.
The state has since halted more than $2 million in funding to OARC and demanded it repay $2.7 million it claims was inappropriately approved or spent.
Officials at OARC, which Evans founded three decades ago to serve Northwest Philadelphia, have declined to discuss the allegations with The Inquirer because, they say, the state has refused to give them a copy of the report. They have also asked a federal judge to find that the Corbett administration has abused its discretion and to order it to honor the grant contracts.
Tasco, speaking in Council chambers, noted that Evans, once the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, was "arguably one of the most powerful state legislators," who "brought home the bacon" to his constituents.
She suggested that he bumped heads and angered opponents through his devotion to securing funds for minority communities, and blamed the media as perpetuating the myth that "government in our hands is something more corrupt."
"If he were a white legislator and this were a white neighborhood, The Inquirer's headline would read, 'Committed state legislator turns neighborhood around after 30 years of hard work,' " Tasco said.
She said that if such allegations had been leveled against former Gov. Ed Rendell, The Inquirer would have questioned why the audit was leaked to the media and never shared with the subject of the audit, OARC.
"If there's a real smoking gun, where are the charges?" Tasco said. "Or is it the true aim to kill off these effective organizations by rumors, allegations, and legal fees?"
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