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Anti-Violence Agency Director Slow To Pass Out Grants, Critics Say

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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(CBS) – There’s new information about Mayor Emanuel’s privately funded, $50 million anti-violence effort and its executive director.

She’s being paid a quarter of a million dollars a year to identify and distribute money to community groups to stop violence.

But CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports there are new questions about the program and its leadership.

Apparently, things aren’t happening fast enough, under an executive director who was hired and is being paid more than double the salary she got when she oversaw the scandal-plagued state program that is now dissolved and under investigation.

Toni Irving is a PhD in English and literature who oversaw the now-dissolved Illinois Violence Prevention Authority and then got a raise from $119,000 to $250,000 a year — even more than the mayor’s salary — to head the non-profit group.

Some blame Irving for delaying badly needed grants. Two independent sources call her tenure ineffective and her management style frenetic, with “no clear criteria or process to evaluate programs seeking grants.”

Among the programs is Becoming a Man, or BAM, which was honored by President Obama at the White House earlier this year,

More than a year earlier, Emanuel came to the South Side to endorse an inner-city organization he said was making a difference.

BAM was exactly the kind of group that Mayor Emanuel and First Lady Michelle Obama had in mind when they recruited a blue-chip board of directors and raised tens of millions of dollars from companies committed to ending Chicago’s inner-city cycle of violence.

Yet it took more than a year for Get in Chicago to decide BAM qualified for a grant.

Emanuel was diplomatic when asked about the delay.

The mayor reportedly appealed to the program’s co-chairs to speed up the process, a process the original two-page proposal envisioned as quick and simple: Find programs that work and make sure they can be expanded. But under Irving’s leadership, it has turned out to be anything but.

Irving could not be reached for comment Thursday.