Southwest Community Ministries Executive Director Gayle Collins has issued a statement to Insider Louisville regarding the post that appeared this week that questioned the non-profit agency’s relationship with Louisville Gas & Electric.
In the previous post, I alleged SWCM had cancelled a non-political neighborhood group’s meeting because of a direct demand made by LG&E. The crux of the argument was that an anti-coal ash environmentalist had been publicly invited to the group’s meeting, inciting the company to react by pressuring SWCM to cancel the group’s event.
I also alleged LG&E had threatened to revoke its ongoing funding of the charitable agency as punishment should the meeting go ahead as planned. The information used to come to that conclusion was gathered over a six-day period in which four independent insider sources were utilized.
We have since found the sources were given false or misleading information in an effort to “pass the buck” and avoid taking blame for cancelling the meeting.
We attempted to get LG&E’s version of the events.
If they had made themselves available to us, we probably wouldn’t have posted the story at that time. But they didn’t, so we had no reason to believe our multiple sources – whose versions of what occured were all consistent – weren’t acting on accurate information.
Here’s the background story: In Late March, 2012, a new community group was begun in southwest Louisville called “Take Our South End Back!” The focus of the group is neighborhood issues such as economic development, community organizing and tackling quality of life problems. The group also seeks to be a liaison between citizens and their government by aiding residents as to where they can direct comments or concerns directly to council members. They feel they were not being heard as individuals, and thought it better to speak as a whole. The group has no political party affiliation and considers itself to be a non-political entity, only advocating for the well-being of citizens in the area.
Full disclosure: I am not a member of the group.
In early April, 2012, the group was granted permission to use meeting space within the confines of SWCM’s facility in order to hold its first meeting in which they were to select a board of directors and president – all necessary steps for any new group.
A few days later, when it had been revealed an environmental activist had been invited to attend the meeting, all hell broke loose, and the group’s permission to use the meeting room at SWCM was denied.
So we have what we like to call an “interesting story”.
Here is – whole and unedited – the statement issued by Gayle Collins, Executive Director of SWCM that explains the charity’s latest version of the events:
1. Rep from the “neighborhood group” asked if they could meet at the Terry Rd bldg b/c they didn’t have anyplace that would hold 15-20 people. They were told it would be crowded, but wouldn’t be a problem. It was understood that it was a group looking to work in the community, on improvement projects, etc.
2. Someone in the community, not anyone from LG&E, called & said that the meeting had a political agenda & that person thought SWCM would not be well served by providing a political group a place to meet. As a non-profit org, they are to stay above the fray & out of the political arena.
3. SWCM called the contact back – from the neighborhood group & told that person that SWCM couldn’t host a meeting w/ even the appearance of a political agenda. Though the community group’s rep felt their agenda was not political, but rather working for the betterment of the community, nonetheless, they were told “no, it’s not appropriate.” The org rep stated that he/she understood & the group would find somewhere else to meet.
4. At no time did any person associated with LG&E (directly, indirectly, or in any way) talk to SWCM about this meeting. No one at LG&E even knew about it until they were told that someone had misrepresented the sequence of events or misspoke.
The relationship b/t SWCM & LG&E is important, just as SWCM’s relationship to other community members, business & otherwise, is important. We work together to make things better. Community Winterhelp is only one way that LG&E works on behalf of the entire Louisville area. Helping SWCM buy its new home is only one other way that LG&E helps out. Each year, LG&E donates almost one quarter of a million dollars ($225,000) to Louisville’s 15 community ministries & Sister Visitors, SWCM included, to help pay home energy bills for low income residents.
It should be noted that there were several relevant and factual elements to my original post, including LG&E’s $75,000 donation toward the purchase of the building that houses the ministry, and all the events leading up to the cancellation of the community group’s meeting remain undisputed.
The insider sources I used for the post are sticking to their stories.
One even calls the statement released by the ministries “bullshit.”
The only thing we’re sure of is, relationships get complicated when community activism, money and influence all coincide.
More if and when we get it.