Ethics Allegation Prompts Big Grant Maker to Suspend Grants

The Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation says it has suspended grants for city-related agencies and projects pending the outcome of an ethics complaint that accuses the $2-billion philanthropy of improper lobbying on education issues, writes Philadelphia City Paper.

The foundation “wants to ensure our full compliance” with the city’s lobbying restrictions “and is awaiting further clarification with regard to its scope concerning permissible grant activity,” said Helen Davis Picher, its interim president.

Public-schools advocates filed a complaint with the city Ethics Board in December asserting that a consulting firm paid by the foundation to produce a study on school closures should have registered as a lobbyist. Penn and the firm, the Boston Consulting Group, denied any impropriety.

The grant cut-off was criticized by activists who oppose the foundation’s schools agenda. “It makes no sense to hold libraries and gardens accountable for improper actions for which the foundation itself should assume accountability,” said Parents United for Public Education, one of the groups behind the ethics complaint.

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