Fitchburg CEDA Awards $50,000 to Five Orgs; Chair Skips Vote Amid Conflict of Interest Accusations


    The Fitchburg Community and Economic Development Authority (CEDA) approved grant funding for Building Bosses, Breaking Barriers, Oregon Youth Center, Trails to Success and Latino Academy of Workforce Development’s GED program.

    CEDA chair Julia Arata-Fratta was not present for the presentations by the applicants nor for the votes on funding, as she recused herself and left the meeting due to connections with two of the organizations applying for funding: Madison Regional Economic Partnership (MadREP), where she currently serves on the board of directors, and the Latino Academy of Workforce Development, where she formerly served on a steering committee.

    “Even though I don’t have any connection with any of the other organizations that are applying for funds today, I decided to recuse myself from the entire process,” Arata-Fratta said in a prepared statement at the beginning of the meeting. “There are some people in the community that are accusing me, wrongly and falsely, that my intention was to remove not-for-profit funds to give those funds to organizations that I have ties (with). This is totally false. My intention was, all the time, and is, to create a transparent, fair and competitive system so all the Fitchburg not-for-profits can apply for funds through a grant process. No organization should be the sole awardee of taxpayer money without any accountability process.”

    Arata-Fratta has been accused publicly by Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson and others of cutting his organization’s funding from the 2018 city budget — and attempting to do so in last year’s budget — in order to fund organizations to which she has ties.

    CEDA ultimately voted to recommend that Building Bosses, a local youth mentoring program run by Ajani Carr, receive $14,000; The Latino Academy GED program, which provides bridges for students to places like Madison College, receive $18,000; Breaking Barriers, run by Caliph Muab-El, receive $11,000; Trails to Success, a church-based Fitchburg organization, receive $4,500; and the Oregon Youth Center receive $2,500. The Fitchburg Common Council will give final approval to funding in January.

    CEDA had $50,000 to use for grants allocated in the 2017 budget. That number will rise to $75,000 – $100,000 for nonprofit organizations after Mayor Jason Gonzalez and the Fitchburg Common Council elected to stop giving funding to Badger Prairie Needs Network and Boys and Girls Club of Dane County as line items in the 2018 budget and instead increase funding in the competitive grant process through the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative.

    The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County already received its allotment of 2017 funding and CEO Michael Johnson has said the organization has raised over $200,000 and will not be seeking 2018 funding from the City of Fitchburg.

    Badger Prairie Needs Network was denied funding this morning, however, a decision that will perhaps shock many. BPPN, which operates food pantries in Verona and Fitchburg, received $5,000 in the City’s 2017 budget, which it spent on operations. The group applied for additional funding to produce a speakers series to bring experts to the area to help address issues of poverty and food insecurity.

    “I’d give them every dime they ask for, for food,” said CEDA member Daniel Hardy. “I wouldn’t give them two cents for speakers.”

    MadRep, Wisconsin Institute for Learning Disabilities and Dyslexia, 1800 Days and the Latino Academy’s Bilingual Customer Service organization were also denied funding.