The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities
by Michael Paragon
(Sarasota, FL January 11, 2012)
In part two of this three-part article, we’ll continue by focusing on some of the major “hot topics” plaguing the Newtown community.
Some Sarasotans believe that many issues have been resolved, but let’s review some things:
This project began over three years ago. $90,000.00 was allocated to provide the first piece of artwork to be installed in the Newtown community. With a premier art college (Ringling) right within the community and a performing arts high school (Booker VPA) right smack in the middle of Newtown, the decision was made to go outside of the community and commission Frank Brown? Mr. Brown has supplied us with a half complete statue that is a “disgrace” to the Newtown community, which took more than a year to be installed and without a proper unveiling to the community as other statues installed Downtown have had.
All organizations (Downtown/Newtown?CDBG/ SHIP/ NSP1/NSP2) that have received funding from the city. Newtown Storefront grant, Project Roll Out, New Beginning in Newtown (a program implemented by Mr. Bartolotta that was an insult to the current agencies already in place) CEO Program, Enterprise Zone, Marion Anderson Brownfield…to name a few. Who’s accounting for all of those program dollars?
The discriminatory termination of employment under the coverup. Mr. Bartolotta & Mr. Brown stated that they were never questioned and were not provided information in a proper amount of time to refute the allegations being made against them. Mr. Bartolotta was even quoted in the SHT as saying “this is a witch hunt” and that he was starting to feel like a punching bag. Mr. Brown stated “this is starting to become demoralizing”. Imagine how Mrs. Benton felt when she was informed late in the afternoon, prior to a three-day weekend, that she was being put on administrative leave. Then, in that Sunday’s edition of the SHT, she was vilified and that continued for two weeks without evidence nor interviews by invetsigative agencies…but yet, she was terminated!? THEY JUMPED THE GUN! Now it’s been reported that Ms. Benton’s computer DISAPPEARED or couldn’t be located for a month and a half. But now it’s in the planning department? Is that the real computer or has it been tampered with? Was there information that could have cleared Ms. Benton and suddenly it’s, (dare I say it?) GONE? Then we learn that there have been allegations of unauthorized access to emails and monitoring of city employee’s by Mr. Bartolotta & Mr. Brown, with the appearance of tampering with an ongoing investigation. Haven’t Ms. Benton’s rights been violated enough? Hasn’t she been “thrown under the bus” and used as a scapegoat? What makes matters worse, is that these two males have been allowed to continue to work under a FDLE & FBI investigation with no mention of an administrative leave! They still have access to documents, files and offices…who knows WHAT they could be doing!
With the creation of the CRA-TIF Community Development Grant program, two years of funding would have been provided to over ten agencies providing services to the youth in Downtown & Newtown. Suddenly the city has demanded information that was initially never requested?! All of these programs have been approved by both NCRAAB & DCRAAB and provided to the city commission with approval from them as well. At the twelfth hour more requests were made from the city to the agencies even though they had already approved the programs. Seems like a simple matter of “I’ll give you the money if you give me this.” And when you give it to them, it’s “…oh yeah, I forgot this and this and that!” How is that professional?