ONLY ON 3: Berke administration has $300,000 in grant money and - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ONLY ON 3: Berke administration has $300,000 in grant money and won't spend it

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Mayor Andy Berke's office says it is working with the Department of Justice to make sure it does not lose a $300,000 federal grant awarded to the City of Chattanooga 7 months ago.

Part of the funds were supposed to be used for a special prosecutor position to help fight crime, but that never happened.

Before Mayor Berke got rid of the gang task force, the task force applied for several federal grants, eventually winning one for a special prosecutor.

It turns out, the city funded its own federal prosecutor and now has to get clearance from the Department of Justice before it can spend the $300,000.    

Channel 3 obtained a memorandum that former gang task force director Boyd Patterson sent to Mayor Berke's chief of staff back in April of 2013. In it, Patterson outlines different programs and grants the task force was working on at the time. One of those grants would provide funding for a Community Law Enforcement and Recovery, or 'CLEAR' prosecutor. It is a model based out of Los Angeles, where the CLEAR prosecutor is assigned to tackle cases in particular parts of town. In Chattanooga's case, the program would have targeted the Westside and Alton Park neighborhoods. Patterson says the task force applied for the grant with the understanding that if it is not successful, city council would be approached to fund the position.

"The focus of that grant was on on two neighborhoods. And with our current initiative, we're really looking at crime city-wide," says Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator Paul Smith.

Smith says the previous administration's way of fighting crime did not line up with Berke's. Berke announced in July of 2013 he wanted the city to fund a federal prosecutor as a part of the Violence Reduction Initiative. City council approved his budget and Berke hired prosecutor Meredith Edwards in October.

But just a month before Edwards took the job, the Department of Justice announced Chattanooga won the CLEAR prosecutor grant requested under the previous mayor.

Berke's new administration now has $300,000 that they don't want to spend.

When asked if the money is just 'floating around,' Smith answers, "No. It's there. It's allocated to the city."

But the money is still sitting in limbo while the city works with the Department of Justice to see if it can reallocate the funds to line up with the Violence Reduction Initiative.

"That's what we're really hoping that we can go in and make a, not broad revisions, but just make some revisions to really focus on where we are now with VRI," says Smith.

Berke's senior advisor and chief policy officer says the administration is "more than confident" it will be able to use the funds, even if it is not for Meredith Edwards' position. Paul Smith and others will be meeting with the Department of Justice in the coming weeks.
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