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Water-Gateway: Grooming Children for the Penitentiary



by Chris Stevenson & E.C. Toth

The age-range of the kids at Gateway-Longview (GL) generally includes 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 year-olds. The 18-years-olds are able to sign themselves out, but they generally try to get them out by 17 according to one unnamed insider. “East Ferry is like jail.” Most of the kids there are black. This pretty much applies to the Lynde School & Campus 6350 Main Street Williamsville, NY as well. In 2011 there was a fight among youths there between 13-16 where the 16-year-olds were arrested and taken to the Erie County Holding Center and the younger kids were taken to a Detention Center in E. Ferry. This prison environment won’t be hard to figure once you understand who ran the facilities and where he comes from.

Since we began working on this story the name Jim Sampson has been of constant mention by our sources. The Buffalo News on 1/13/15 broke with it’s What’s the Matter With Sampson, He’s Okay-predisposition to run an article based on a recent state audit that focused on his time at GL which included a $600 dollar a month car allowance (cell phone use included), $378,946 in other questionable expenses, and $24,972 in perks to GL officials (hush money if you live around Buffalo). In his opening words on the New York State facilities Thomas DiNapoli gives his basic overview of all state agencies they investigated. It isn’t rocket science to figure out where GL and Sampson stand on this assessment: “Our audits have found that while many private special providers use public funds conscientiously and in accordance with that state rules, other providers evade the rules and abuse taxpayer funds.” The economic contrast between Sampson and those orphaned and special-needs kids is chilling even in a city like Buffalo: described by the B-LoEd Scene webpage as the “third poorest city in the Milky Way.”

All-in-all the state audit finds $2.4 million of Gateway-Longview out of view. “The former CEO (Sampson) received personal benefits totaling $39,138… these costs were inappropriate, not properly documented and/or not reimbursed.”

Sampson is not the “radical” Donn Esmond wants you to believe, in fact he’s very status quo. Like Howard Zemsky, Frank Gioia, and others, he’s a board-hopper, and a progress-stopper. Among his memberships’ are Chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority appointed by Governor Cuomo, County Executive Mark Poloncarz Erie County Transition team (along with Zemsky), Buffalo Niagara Partnership. He is also co-founder of the West Buffalo Charter School. Sampson is not from Western NY however he is from Wisconsin. It was there where he worked in corrections (1974-85) and with youth in several capacities, most notably Superintendent for minimum-security facility prisons in Southeast WI. This we think, is the major reason Gateway has developed a prison-style way of handling its children and black employees.

In 2012 Gil Hargrave, FRC Advisory Board Member, noticed that GL directors and Advisory Board members figured out ways for Gateway to gain funds to support their music program. Mainly through the 21st Century grant and philanthropic avenues. It’s not just the swimming pool that we wrote about earlier that’s the problem. Whenever a facility is expert at raising funds, but lacks in the physical improvement to match the funds in areas like paint, improved gym, and a lack of overall maintenance, then there’s a management problem.

Directors made efforts to get the pool cleaned, only to have white VPs come in and scream at them in front of other workers to not get it cleaned. As a result the pool was down for 2-years. “As soon as the program began to thrive, that’s when the staff, directors, and volunteers begin to face the most adversity,” said Akauola. In other words, “basic Buffalo stuff”. Things there may even be worse than the audit findings; another GL source disclosed to me months ago “Senator Kennedy allocated $200,000 (via Antoine Thompson’s hard work as a NYS Senator”) to repair the facility a year ago. Those facility repairs have not been done. James Sampson used $3 million of GL money to join his most exclusive board yet; ‘The Millionaires Club.’”

Sheldon Silver is probably kicking himself that he didn’t move to anonymous little Buffalo. Who pays attention to us, really? He could have made more and even got away with it. In view of the recent arrest of the “most powerful man in Albany” for his own abuse of power regarding decades of bribes and kickbacks totaling over $4 million, just imagine what he could have made-off with here?

As we celebrate the late great Dr. King’s legacy it remains daunting that we are all held prisoner in the ideology of the two Americas that remain the experience in which blacks and whites live on a daily basis in Buffalo, New York. Uncovering the reasons why the community couldn’t get GL’s management to release funds earmarked to get the pool cleaned, programs funded, exposed wiring repaired, carpets cleaned, and etc., was ongoing and problematic at “The Old Humboldt Y”, 347 East Ferry Street, Buffalo, New York. When stellar candidates, like Janet Barnes, and Archie Amos, were recommended to vie for the open CEO position Jim Sampson intended to vacate, those community endorsed applicants’ did not even receive a “No Thank You Letter”, much less an interview or even an acknowledgment that they had submitted their resumes for consideration from GL. The community became further concerned about the heightened levels of blatant discrimination consigned into practiced by GL’s Board of Directors.

The uneasiness of this once cohesive relationship intensified between GL’s Board of Directors and the Gateway-Longview Family Resource Center Advisory Board Members, (FRC Advisory Board). The Director at that time Bilal Abdullah began defusing a constant barrage of systemically disparagingly attacks on his personhood, staff, and community. Although, Director Abdullah’s job description held him accountable to function as an intermediary between GL and the FRC Advisory Board he became a target. During the last 2½ years of his 7-year tenure Director Abdullah withstood so many racially motivated discriminatory assaults that his health began to decline. Racism at GL seems to be an undercurrent of control of the blacks that work there. Finally, on Saturday, March 15th, 2014, Director Abdullah walked into an ambush of sorts. An unplanned unannounced employee meeting between the GL VP of Human Resources and one of the GL Board of Directors and an armed guard. When Director Abdullah addressed the presence of the armed guard at the FRC building, the Gateway-Longview’s Board of Director explained that “they” felt threatened. Director Abdullah continually brought the concerns of the community as well as his own experiences to GL’s managerial hierarchy, and Board of Directors. Instead of self-correcting and holding those accountable for the egregious acts of discrimination GL hierarchy began a campaign of incrimination against him. Once they brought an armed guard to the unplanned employee meeting, Mr. Abdullah realized his life was in danger, and GL intended to use any means necessary to silence him.

“They” felt threatened, really? GL.’s managerial hierarchy, and the Board of Directors had the power to make things right, to fix the building, to fund programming, to hire the appropriate staff so the community could be served properly. When the FRC Advisory Board began to hold GL’s managerial hierarchy accountable for the discrimination, for misappropriation of funds, and uncovered the fraudulent collusion that’s when the downward spiral of the relationship occurred.

It became apparent that the written demands from the FRC Advisory Board regarding the details of past budgets and expenses along with the future budgetary plans to GL.’s Carolyne DeFranco’s intentions were to leave those requests unanswered. Carolyne DeFranco’s remissness mirrors that of Jim Sampson. Unidentified GL Official’s rebuttal statement quoted on January 13, 2015 in Business First is more of the same rhetoric. What exactly is the “rear mirror” look at GL? The FRC Advisory Board recognizes this language is nothing more than desperation to sweep the truth under the carpet, speaking with a forked tongue, and continuing the systemic hypocrisy of entitlement. Within that same article, Carolyne DeFranco then attempts to distance herself from the fraud even though the members of this community knows all too well that she was very present during Jim Sampson’s tenure serving as his “right hand (wo)man”.

Since the FRC Advisory Board received little or no cooperation from GL it was decided to go to all the stakeholders including NYS Comptroller DiNapoli and find out the truth about the finances for Gateway-Longview Family Resource Center located at 347 East Ferry, Buffalo, New York 14208. And although the FRC Advisory Board was assured by the Comptroller’s Buffalo Representative, that Mr. DiNapoli was highly aware of the challenges the community faced we couldn’t be more disappointed in the position that DiNapoli has taken concerning GL, DiNapoli has been documented in public media that he has come to the conclusion that no criminal charges should be filed against Jim Sampson and/or those who colluded with Sampson to “misappropriate” 3 million dollars.

The community supposed that Comptroller DiNapoli had done his job by at least releasing the audit, which discloses that during CEO Sampson’s reign of financial impropriates namely: the public funds pilfering of 3 million dollars did in fact occur. Community leaders had already lettered in detail their concerns in their FRC Advisory Board Public Plea during 2013’ / 2014’ identifying the exact “red flags” acknowledged in Comptroller DiNapoli’s audit results, of GL.

This solid group of community of leaders came together, investigated and did not strain New York State’s budget. “Our community expected Comptroller DiNapoli to hold GL Officials and the Board of Directors responsible for conspiring to cover up the use of public funds to defraud the public accountable; a “double crime” according to Governor Cuomo”, said Miller.

Community leaders, Mitchel Reed, Janet Barnes, and Gil Hargrave of the FRC Advisory Board, requests for a forensic accounting, seems to have also gone unnoticed. “As we walked our walk through the halls of the city, to the representatives of the State of New York, and electronically informed all who continued to provide public funding to GL we were met with cooperative but resistant behaviors, attitudes, and inexcusable political social irresponsibility from most elected officials; said Ms. Charlene Miller, FRC Advisory Board Chair”

Additionally, a GL. Director decided to send a threatening letter to the FRC Advisory Board Chair, Ms. Charlene Miller, the 70 year old, elected official who has relentlessly served our community for ions. Quoting the letter demanding that the FRC Advisory Board “CEASE AND DESIST” was just another desperate measure to use bullying, instill fear, and intimidation to shut down the investigation from this community. In another letter from three of the GL Board of Directors, the FRC Advisory Board was informed that they were nothing more that an unorganized panel with no stake in GL. What seemed most dismaying is that the GL Board of Director’s actions attempted to negate the fact that the “Old Humboldt Y” building at 347 East Ferry that was obtained for $1 from the Greater Buffalo YMCA had stipulations that were predicated on the condition that a community advisory board is maintained.

As counsel for FRC Advisory Board, Phillip Dabney Jr. has been the unsung hero throughout this ordeal, having been acquainted with GL’s documented efforts in disenfranchising certain classes of people through tyrannical employment practices. Phil has represented numerous individuals wrongfully terminated, criminalized and labeled by GL management neglectful of the children. The truth of the matter is that GL has a long history of criminalizing many of their black workers to cover up the white management’s incompetence. Many workers came forward and informed the FRC Advisory Board members of the disparities in the workplace. Details about the condition of the children who are warehoused at the Williamsville, NY site that were shared included; a lack of healthy, nutritious food and proper clothing for the children to lack of care and consideration for the workers.

Repeatedly, the FRC Advisory Board Members fielded a constant stream of reports, testimonies, and concerns. Some self-attestations originated from Williamsville Campus workers who felt they were put at risk each time they were scheduled to work. Several issues were lack of proper coverage so workers could relieve themselves just to go to the bathroom, to an absence of proper medical care. (When one worker’s arm was broken at 2pm that same worker was made to finish the scheduled 5pm shift and emergency aid was never made available by any staff or managers there.), to simply being able to leave the work premises when ones scheduled shift was over. Even though supervisory relief should have been available, it is evident that the black workers are treated sub-standardly. Blatantly irresponsible behavior about GL’s managerial staff was reported to the FRC Advisory Board on various occasions. Those individuals were currently working or had worked for GL during our investigation. Since the FRC Advisory Board Members were assembled from the community around 347 East Ferry, Buffalo, New York members felt it was their responsibility to share those concerns regarding the GL wards kept on the Main Street campus in Williamsville, NY with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI). So all those concerns regarding the children that are assigned or placed with the FRC Advisory Board Members were sent over to the local FBI office.

Unfortunately, the community realized early on during their investigation that GL representatives have long reaching tentacles into the walls of government and easy access to influence government officials. GL’s Board and managerial hierarchy continue to operate with a business as usual attitude that the GL bastion finances.

Attorney Phillip Dabney, Jr. anchored the FRC Advisory Board members and validated their concerns. He has worked on many cases intimately, concerning questionable employment and labor practices of GL. “I have represented many employees of GL regarding employment practices, which has afforded me the unique opportunity of earnestly affecting the lives of those within this community, both as a legal advocate and influence on policing public policy, as it pertains to the quality of life for my clients. Much of my practice has been catered towards those who have been unable to afford the quality of representation they deserve”, said Attorney Dabney.

The FRC Advisory Board and the community at-large seeks justice for a community that has been traditionally used to benefit those individuals’ who show up under the guise of giving back to the world they have historically exploited. When the Governor, the Comptroller, and the NYS Attorney General decide to pursue criminal charges against Jim Sampson and et al, this community will support their efforts. Moreover, the FRC Advisory Board Members will continue to follow up with the formal complaints that have already been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, The United States Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division and others.

During the FRC Advisory Board meetings members have discussed at length the realization that GL’s past and current managerial hierarchy along with the GL Board Members enjoy a certain kind of level of entitlement. FRC Advisory Board Members are sure that if GL was a predominantly black organization than those at the helm would have been criminally investigated, most likely arrested and probably prosecuted by now. When one considers the likes of Brian Davis, Kwame Kilpatrick and Jesse Jackson, Jr., personal humiliation and very public scandals within local communities: “we know blacks are held to a different criminal / moral standard that whites”. “We witness this disparity every day”. “Jim Sampson’s so called “misappropriations” are unacceptable, yet the Comptroller has alluded that there was no criminal activities”. “How can this be true”? “Why is it all right for Jim Sampson to conspire to steal 3 million dollars along with “invisible others”? “Where is the political, social, and moral accountability”?

Dr. King’s America is one we all embrace with a sense of social fairness for everyone. We remain optimistic, but peace will only come to those who have continuously enjoyed the American Dream at the expense of others, when those who have been purposefully missing out on that same opportunity are able to enjoy those dreams. Justice must be realized!

Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the comment link below or email pointblankdta@yahoo.com.

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3 Comments on "Water-Gateway: Grooming Children for the Penitentiary"

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  2. Betty Jean Grant | January 29, 2015 at 3:15 am | Reply

    We are a divided community and a divided people. How can we fight in those conditions? Everyone wants his little bite of the apple and winds up with just a bite.

  3. This is harrendous!!
    Where is the justice?
    How can the community allow this to happen to our children and families?
    Injustice: what would Dr. King think of someone who made a comparison to him?
    Community?? Community??
    Justice?? Justice??

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