Jobs for Delaware Legislators
Nicole Poore was elected to the Senate in 2012. She became Majority Whip for 2017-2018 and Majority Leader for 2019-2020. She also served on the powerful Joint Finance Committee. She currently does not hold a leadership position.
Early in 2015 she accepted the position of President of Jobs for Delaware Graduates (JDG). In 2018, based on IRS 990 Forms, Poore’s total JDG compensation was $102,858. Those earnings are in addition to her Senate salary. She has not recused herself from voting on Grant in Aid nor on the budgets of state agencies which provide generous funding for her nonprofit agency.
Non-profit executives are generally expected to generate revenues through private fundraising. However, the analysis below indicates that JDG depends overwhelmingly on state funds. The percentage of funds from outside sources ranges from 2.5% to 5.6%.
JDG receives more Grant in Aid funding than any other non-profit. However, Grant in Aid (GIA) isn’t the only state funding available to non-profit agencies. Like PAL, JDG has benefited from funding arrangements with several state agencies. JDG was able to increase expenditures by almost $1 million the year Nicole Poore was hired.
There is a striking correlation between state agency funding allocated to JDG and Nicole Poore’s Senate Committee assignments which currently include Vice Chair of the Senate Labor Committee and Vice Chair of the Health and Social Services Committee. She formerly served on the Senate Education Committee. In recent years, JDG has received more than $15 million from DOE, DOL, TANF, and DSCYF.
The appropriateness of legislative leaders accepting lucrative nonprofit positions has been challenged by advocates, journalists and political blogs as representing an obvious and significant conflict of interest, but no official action has been taken.
Fertile Ground for Corruption
In 2013, the Center for Public Integrity published an article titled
“State Legislators Ties to Nonprofits Prove Fertile Ground for Corruption”. The article stated:
“Over the past few decades, state governments have increasingly outsourced many functions to community-based nonprofits in an attempt to provide more effective, flexible social services. But the result, some say, has been the creation of what is essentially another arm of government.
…in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists. Meanwhile, feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”
In response to a 2018 article in the Delaware State News which raised the conflict of interest issue, Senator Poore commented that, “she has talked to “four different attorneys” and all said it was OK to vote for the measure since it concerns funding for organizations other than just Jobs for Delaware Graduates.”
This is the “Honor System” at work. Senator Poore undertook her own review to determine appropriateness before accepting this $102,000 job. She may have four legal briefs in her files or she might have just talked to friends. The public will never know.
The conclusion from her personal legal team seems highly unusual. Of course, the budgets she helped craft in the Joint Finance Committee involve organizations other than Jobs for Delaware Graduates. Those trade offs are the heart of the issue. Did JDG get a larger slice of the budgetary pie?
Nicole Poore and Jobs for Delaware Graduates (JDG)
When people think of funding for nonprofits in Delaware, the initial focus is Grant in Aid (GIA). JDG receives more Grant in Aid funding than any other non-profit.
The chart below shows GIA funding for JDG from 2013 to 2021. The third column represents total GIA funding for nonprofits in the Disabled/Health/Labor category within the overall GIA budget.
Jobs for Delaware Graduates
In 2014, shortly before Nicole Poore was hired, the GIA funding for JDG increased by $350,000. The overall GIA budget for Disabled/Health/Labor increased by $530,521, but JDG got the lion’s share increasing its percentage of the category budget by 4.7%.
When hard times came for GIA in 2018, every agency took a hit, but the blow for JDG was cushioned somewhat because the agency gained 2% within the Disabled/Health/Labor category.
However, Grant in Aid (GIA) isn’t the only state funding available to non-profit agencies. Like PAL, JDG has benefited from funding arrangements with several state agencies as outlined in the chart below. The first six lines are totals from the Delaware State Online Checkbook which goes back to 2016 and shows the year-to-year funding combining GIA and funding from state agencies.
Jobs for Delaware Graduates
Revenue From DE State Online Checkbook (SOC)
|Revenue||FY 2016||FY 2017||FY 2018||FY 2019||FY 2020|
|Not in SOC||$115,794||$139,454||$189,561||$143,731||NA|
|% Not |
JDG funding from state agencies during this five-year period represents approximately two-thirds of the agency’s state funding with GIA making up the remainder. There is a striking correlation between state agency funding allocated to JDG and Nicole Poore’s Senate Committee assignments.
Poore was a member of the Senate Education Committee. JDG funding from the Department of Education (DOE) started in FY 2016 increasing to almost a million dollars in 2020 as presented on the above chart. JDG funding from DOE totaled $2,750,147 during this period.
Nicole Poore is currently Vice Chair of the Senate Labor Committee. JDG funding from DOL totaled $4.3 million during this same period. Poore is also Vice Chair of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee. The above data include $4.9 million in DHSS funds. The funding for JDG from DOE, DOL, DHHS and DSCYF total more than $12 million.
Non-profit executives are generally expected to generate revenues through private fundraising. However, the data in the above table indicates that JDG depends overwhelmingly on state funds. The line labeled “990 Total Revenue” comes from the IRS forms submitted by JDG and represents the agency’s total expenditures. Subtracting the state funds provided through the State Online Checkbook yields the remaining funds raised privately by JDG which range from only 2.5% to 5.6%.
Doubling Up on Executive Compensation
Every year nonprofit agencies submit publicly available 990 forms to the IRS. These forms indicate that Nicole Poor started drawing a salary from JDG during the second quarter of 2015.
According to an outdated Linked In profile, the prior President, Susanna Lee, had served since August 2000. Based on the 990 Form, in 2014 her salary was $106,606 and she was the only executive employed by JDG. In 2015, when Nicole Poore was hired as President, JDG also employed Dianne Jones as “Finance and HR Officer”. The agency went from having one top executive position to two, effectively doubling executive compensation . In FY 2018 and 2019, Ms. Jones actually earned slightly more than President Nicole Poore–$104,163 to $102,858 in 2019.
Most nonprofits filling a six-figure position would opt for a full time President. The JDG Board apparently saw value in hiring Nicole Poore although it necessitated hiring a second person to help run the agency.
The Fort Dupont Restoration and Preservation Corporation (FDRPC)
The Fort DuPont Redevelopment and Preservation Corporation is a quasi-public body created by HB 310 which passed the General Assembly in 2014. Nicole Poore and Valarie Longhurst were the only two legislators sponsoring this bill as well as two subsequent bills refining the governing structure for FDRPC.
This quote from a July 2020 News Journal article summarizes some of the unique aspects of this project:
“But unlike most coastal developments in southern Delaware, this one would be bolstered by millions of dollars of taxpayer funding and built in an area largely covered by wetlands that were once state park land.”
The same article reported, “Since fiscal year 2013, the corporation has received at least $12 million from the state coffers, according to the state Office of Management and Budget.” The FY 2022 Capital Budget includes an additional $2,250,000 for this project making the total state investment more than $14 million. Nicole Poore is currently Chair of both the Senate and Joint Capital Improvement Committees.
Richard Cathcart, one of Poore and Longhurst’s General Assembly colleagues, joined the FDRPC Board as City Manager for Delaware City. Cathcart had decided not to run for election in 2012 following a State Auditor’s report which found that he failed to follow competitive bidding rules while double dipping at Delaware State University. Being ethically challenged, Cathcart would seem an unfortunate choice for FDRPC. He left in 2017.
On January 20, 2021, Poore and Longhurst introduced HB 85 relating to FDRPC. This bill includes a couple of ethics provisions and “requires the Executive Director to provide an annual written report of the activities of the Corporation.” It also requires an audit as well as an oversight committee.
So seven years and $12 million into this project, the state is now requiring reporting, auditing and oversight. There seems to be some urgency as well. Longhurst placed HB 85 on the House agenda for January 21, 2021 before it was approved by the Administration Committee at 11:00 that morning or even spell checked.
The December 9, 2020 Board Meeting Minutes of FDRPC indicate that both Poore and Longhurst attended as “members of the public”. Here are a few excerpts from the minutes:
“No changes have been made since last Board meeting, except for the Conflict of Interest policy, which is under further review.”
“VII. New Business – Audit. Mr. Scoglietti noted that it was voted during the last Board meeting to extend the audit from a one year to a five-year audit and that an RFP is being prepared.”
“VIII. Public Comment – Representative Longhurst commended the corporation for its progress and also the importance of annual audits. As funding from the state continues, annual audits will be required.” Better late than never.
Aside from the large public subsidy, privatization of a 320 acre State Park, and lack of accountability, the most fundamental issue created by FDRPC is development in a floodplain. Here’s a quote from an August 2018 article in the Delaware Business Times.
The plan has critics, such as David Carter, a former administrator in the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, who said “building in a floodplain is a public policy position best described as stupid.” He said the project was borne out of a heedless pursuit of jobs and economic development.
“I am concerned this will be as big of a failure as Bloom or Fisker was in terms of economic benefits and cost to the public,” Carter said, referring to two failing or unprofitable companies that received millions in state subsidies. “Sooner or later, nature wins. It’s just a matter of which generation pays the cost for this bad decision.”
Here’s another quote from the same article.
Jeffrey Randol, the redevelopment commission’s executive director, said the plan is to create a “mini Holland,” with a series of earthen barriers at an estimated cost of between $2.5 million and $3 million.