Not Cool, Guys: With Ethics Complaint Filed Against Them, William Penn Foundation Takes Their Ball And Goes Home

williampennlogoThe William Penn Foundation, usually on this site for doing some pretty great things, recently suspended grant-making to city-related agencies after the people at Parents United for Public Education filed an ethics complaint. As we mentioned before, the complaint claims that “the William Penn Foundation and private donors hired a consulting firm to lobby the School District of Philadelphia around a controversial plan to restructure public education in Philadelphia. The lobbying focused on charter expansion and identifying 60 schools for closure among other areas.”

In response to these claims, in an effort to ensure their “full compliance with the ordinance,” the William Penn Foundation has suspended their grant-making services to city agencies, though the suspension would not affect already-approved funding, according to City Paper. Helen Gym, of Parents United for Public Education, said:

What William Penn forgets is that our ethics complaint has nothing to do with the responsible funding of city agencies. In fact, if William Penn had chosen to directly fund the District, instead of contract with a private third party to lobby the District, we would not have filed an ethics complaint. Our complaint focuses on the issue of lobbying, not on the responsible philanthropy the Foundation has practiced for years. The Foundation’s unnecessary and harmful responses raises serious questions about what it hopes to achieve and what message it intends to send regarding an important issue before the city ethics board.”

The immediate effect is a denial of funding for the Bartram’s Mile Project, as news of the suspension was only announced in a response to the city’s request for funds for the project. The less-than-immediate effect could be WPF holding back funds until they are cleared of the ethics violations (or using such a scenario as leverage), which is pretty unethical itself. You can read a breakdown of the ethics complaint here.