National Archives at College Park [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

July 9, 2018; Delaware News Journal

We are never sure what nonprofits don’t get about conflicts of interest. Some appear to believe that so long as those with conflicts simply recuse themselves during conversations in which they have an interest, that suffices to address any potential conflicting interests they may have. Once again, true safety is found in overcorrection.

This was brought home the hard way to Wilmington, Delaware’s Connections Community Support Services, a large behavioral health nonprofit, after it was revealed that Darius J. Brown, one of three local politicians they employed, had state and federal tax liens placed against him for not paying taxes on revenue realized from the nonprofit. At the time, the organization explained, he was under contract, so it was no business of theirs, and they were already in the process of reviewing the conflict of interest policy. In the end, though, it just looked bad—especially since, by this account, all three officials had been in the press previously for their involvement in making government decisions favorable to the nonprofit:

Each voted to approve thousands in grant money to Connections. Michael Brown, who joined the nonprofit as a residential manager three years into his term, suggested legislation that would shield the nonprofit from nuisance violations, archives show.

Shabazz was a business and workforce development manager, according to her LinkedIn page. She started working at Connections in 2010 when she was a District 4 council member. Darius Brown was most recently the vice president of constituent services and also started working for Connections in 2010, according to the nonprofit.

Darius Brown represented council District 3 at the same time he was a registered lobbyist for Connections.

One might wonder how much integrity is involved in the swearing off of running an employment program for local elected officials, since these last issues all occurred long before the current issue with Brown’s taxes. The organization is certainly big enough to know better, with a $114 million annual budget and 1600 employees.

All three had signed filed notarized documents with the city declaring no conflicts of interest.—Ruth McCambridge