Nonprofit CEO blasts grand jury report as ‘lies’

Former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown Monday denounced a recent Alameda County grand jury report’s allegation that she has an improper dual role in receiving county funds for a nonprofit group in West Oakland as “a blatant lie.”

Brown, who headed the Black Panther Party from 1974 to 1977 and has served as an aide to Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson since 2013, said she isn’t paid by and has never received any money from Oakland and the World Enterprises Inc., which seeks to transform a formerly blighted West Oakland lot near BART tracks into an urban farm and high-rise housing development employing former inmates.

Speaking at a news conference at the project’s site at the corner of Campbell and Seventh streets, Brown, the group’s chief executive, said:

“Our organization’s books are open, our taxes are filed and we have used the funds we’ve received very conservatively.”

Joined by other members of the nonprofit group as well as some of its workers, Brown said:

“Compelled to respond to this attempted bamboozling of our community, we speak out to address these lies so as to let our people know we are who we say we are, a model for reducing recidivism, poverty, crime and for uplifting and empowering all the people.”

The grand jury report, which was issued last week, alleges Carson violated the county’s conflict of interest rules when he hired Brown to his staff and allocated $710,000 in funding to the nonprofit. The report alleges Carson was aware of the conflict from the beginning.

The panel said Carson hired Brown as part of his District 5 staff for the specific purpose of helping her create Oakland and the World Enterprises (OAW) and that she communicated with him about the project at least on a weekly basis.

The grand jury wrote:

“The dual role of the county employee (Brown) in these transactions constituted both a failure of good governance practices by the county of Alameda and a conflict of interest under the county’s charter and administrative code.”

The panel said OAW received $102,527 in county money from funds made available to nonprofit groups to meet affordable housing needs and another $710,000 from discretionary funds from Carson’s office.

Its report said Brown:

“… was wearing ‘two hats’ in connection with these transactions in that she was actively involved on both sides of those transactions, as both a county employee and an advocate for OAW.”

Carson was unavailable for comment on the report Monday.

Zachary Wasserman, OAW’s attorney, said the report’s allegations weren’t true and he believes Brown doesn’t have a conflict of interest because she has no economic interest in OAW since she doesn’t personally receive any money from the nonprofit.

Wasserman said the grand jury report “poisons minds” against the nonprofit group, which he said is doing good work.

Brown filed a $7 million lawsuit last year against Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks and the city of Oakland alleging that Brooks punched her in the chest with her fists at the Everett & Jones Barbeque restaurant near Jack London Square on Oct. 30, 2015, while they were discussing funding for OAW.

Brown accused Brooks of elder abuse, assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

Brooks has denied Brown’s allegations and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said in May 2016 that it decided not to file any charges against Brooks because it didn’t believe there was enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed.