Controversial West Oak Lane nonprofit replaces chief

Posted: July 24, 2014

Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. (OARC), the controversial community development firm with ties to State Rep. Dwight Evans, has replaced its longtime chief executive officer, Jack Kitchen.

In an announcement that made no mention of Kitchen, who led the organization for 14 years, OARC named Kimberly A. Lloyd, chair of the Lincoln University board of trustees, interim president and CEO. The announcement, made Monday, said the change was effective June 30.

It could not be determined Tuesday what led to the change at the organization, which has been buffeted by a state inquiry into its operations and the loss of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies - in part as a result of Evans' loss four years ago of his position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Neither Lloyd nor Kitchen returned calls seeking comment. Nor did Tara Johnson-Hill, spokesperson for OARC, or Evans, who founded OARC and has worked closely with Kitchen over the years.

Evans (D., Phila.), speaking Monday to WHYY NewsWorks, said Kitchen had "decided to move on." NewsWorks reported that Evans "did not know Kitchen's destination, or details of the decision leading to it."

Kitchen's LinkedIn profile lists his current job as president of Shay Real Estate & Consulting, a company with "expertise in economic development."

Until his departure, Kitchen was OARC's public face and leader during its dramatic rise and sudden fall as one of the city's fastest-growing and best-funded community development nonprofits.

With Evans' support in Harrisburg, OARC secured more than $40 million in public funds between 2006 and 2010. The money was meant for projects to benefit the West Oak Lane neighborhoods that make up Evans' legislative district.

OARC's image suffered, however, when questions arose about some of its projects, including the purchase of a financially troubled Mount Airy nightclub owned by friends of Evans', and the spending of $1 million in taxpayer funds on the West Oak Lane Jazz festival while other city celebrations faced cutbacks.

The state's aid to OARC drew the ire of other Democrats, who voted to demote Evans as the party's leading member of the Appropriations Committee in 2010 after Republicans won control of the House. Thereafter, OARC's taxpayer funding fell from $11.4 million in 2010 to $2 million in 2011.

Gov. Corbett's inspector general, too, scrutinized the spending and concluded that OARC, under Kitchen, had misspent or mismanaged portions of state grants worth $12 million since 2006, violated bid rules, and spent taxpayer money on questionable real estate purchases.

The administration responded by freezing OARC's funding and barring it from seeking grants. OARC countersued, but eventually agreed to return $1.2 million in grants and forgo an additional $1.8 million tentatively approved before Corbett took office in 2011. The settlement restored the nonprofit as a "grantee in good standing" while assigning no wrongdoing to either side.


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