Convicted sex-offender running King County “gun violence” program
October 5, 2022
In the past month we’re repeatedly written about King County’s Restorative Community Pathways program, its flawed premise, and total lack of accountability for those in it and running it. As with the current debacle with a planned homeless megaplex in Chinatown, a lack of accountability from those in charge or receiving public tax dollars is a major contributor to the multiple ongoing crisis in the region.
A recent expose by KUOW (NPR – Seattle) perfectly encapsulates the dysfunctional situation within King County and, frankly, calls into question whether other entities receiving public funds from the county for similar work require further scrutiny.
Saleem Robinson runs a nonprofit called “Renegades for Life Youth Outreach,” which has received more than $200,000 from King County to work with people “affected” by gun violence. Robinson claimed to have a master’s degree from Seattle University, in addition to a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington.
The problem is, he has neither of those. In fact, “Saleem Robinson” is not even his original name. It’s not clear what his name happens to be, as he has changed it repeatedly.
Considering his background, it makes sense. Up until last year he was on a sex offender registry for repeated indecent offenses. Not exactly the kind of “prior experience” that makes you qualified to help people affected by gun violence.
When KUOW contacted Robinson and inquired about his prior sexual offense convictions and whether it compromised his current role, he told them that “his work for the county only involves adults ages 18 and over.”
This is what he actually told KUOW:
“No one was raped. No one was harmed. It was a kind of a turn-on to me. Everybody gets their sexual excitements in different ways.”
Well, that’s reassuring. Remember, this person thinks they should be instructing people about self-restraint involving firearms.
On top of all that, Robinson is scheduled to be tried next month for felony insurance fraud.
Once more, his excuse to KUOW requires a double take to make sure you read it right.
“Had I known that there was such thing as insurance fraud, I would have never filed the claim,”
Although it’s easy to criticize Robinson’s apparent fraud and deceit, that distracts from the real problem: King County.
As KUOW reports:
King County does not typically conduct background checks on employees in organizations it contracts with – a hands-off approach that lets people who would not be allowed to work in public schools work one-on-one with young people in crisis.
James Apa, spokesperson for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said the organizations in the Regional Peacekeepers Collective “were identified by the community for their established connections and history of support, credibility and trust to address issues of gun violence.”
The only credibility that’s suffered more than Robinson’s as a result of this boondoggle has been that of the county.
To be fair, because of this scandal the county has ostensibly revised its policy and intends to do background checks. Better late than never, but this demonstrates the lack of accountability. It was only after a media outlet held their feet to the fire that they implemented something that should be a standard part of the hiring/contracting process.
KUOW also reports that the county’s vetting process needs some major reform.
By Washington state law, teachers’ licenses are denied or permanently revoked for most sex crime convictions, including indecent exposure. King County, however, sets no criteria for convictions that disqualify contractors from working with youth.
In case you’re wondering if this gets worse…it does.
Robinson’s organization didn’t even contract directly with the county. Instead, it contracted with Community Passageways, a “lead contractor” that subcontracted with Renegades for Life Youth Outreach. When KUOW requested a copy of the subcontract, the county said it didn’t have it and referred them to Community Pathways.
Know what happened when KUOW asked Community Pathways for the contract?
If you’re hoping they cooperated, prepare for disappointment.
“Community Passageways Chief Operations Officer Katoya Palmer said the organization was ‘reluctant’ to provide KUOW the amounts sub-grantees receive, citing concern about ‘our community partners and any potential impacts to them.’ She did not respond to a request for details about the work those organizations, including Renegades for Life, conduct.”
Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell described the situation well when he tweeted that it was “just the latest in a disturbing and unacceptable trend out of #KingCounty when it comes to juvenile programs.” Farrell is running for King County Prosecutor this year. The prosecutor’s office oversees the Restorative Community Pathways (RCP) program for first-time juvenile offenders that diverts them to social services rather than serving jailtime.
The scandal involving Robinson matters, because the RCP currently operates on the same publicly funded, privately managed approach that effectively evades transparency around the use of public money and proper vetting. The county gives out funds to different nonprofits, several of which originally proposed the idea, and then everything takes place in the shadows. All hiring and contracting needs to be treated as if it’s done directly with the county itself.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office gets to unilaterally decide whether a juvenile offender is diverted from the courts, which are kept out entirely. County documents also explicitly state the program will be held accountable – to the juvenile offenders in it for committing crimes.
If meaningful reforms aren’t put into place, we can expect the same outcome with the RCP as we’ve discovered with the county’s “gun violence” outreach efforts.