Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The YAC (Youth Advisory Council) Makes Me Want to Yack

In 2017 (FY), Metro says it spent $82,615.71 of our money on something called the Youth Advisory Council. Sure, Metro probably blows this amount by the minute, but Paul Wiedefeld, the GM, told taxpayers there was no more fat to cut. Note also the budget does not include WMATA staff hours used to support the YAC.

It's unclear what purpose the Youth Advisory Council serves.

According to its minimalist website:

Metro wants you to weigh in on issues that matter to you, your peers, and our community. This is your chance to share your ideas and help make your transit system a better place to ride. It’s a free, once a month meeting that will bring together students from across the region to make a difference. You even gain community service hours for attending! Register for the Youth Advisory Council today!

 Metro's Twitter account has mentioned the council just 10 times over more than a year.

These monthly meetings are attended by between 50 and 70 kids, based on documents provided by Metro through a PARP (FOIA) request. The events are catered (see below), and at one meeting at least, there was a live DJ, DJ Single Track (JK. That's what FixWMATA called him.). There was yoga at another meeting.

Another account of the May 2017 meeting went like this:

Hosted by Comedian and DTLR Radio Personality Ty Davis & Radio Personality who has us all saying 'Whats poppin!' Deja Perez, the two host focused on their upbringing and the realism of being youth in a city where most count you out.
"We want to create a safe haven for the youth to come and grow and know that we are behind them in every step of the way, it brings us joy giving back to the youth and giving them an outlet to be able to talk about things they are actually going through and we here at WMATA are that listening ear and are here to help in any way we can" - Jawauna Greene (Director of Marketing , WMATA)

There are some photos posted of kids working on what appears to be some kind of model airplane. It's unclear what that has to do with Metro.

One Metro source described the Youth Advisory Council as "very expensive day care."

Here are some other first-hand accounts:

And finally, here's a recording from a meeting.

Here's a breakdown of expenses associated with the council. Below is what Metro sent me.

As you can see, the vast majority of our money goes to "Chit Chat Media."

A search of Maryland businesses reveals Chit Chat Media is registered to Cassandra Vaughn.

After some digging around, I found out more about Vaughn.

Guess who's she's associated with?

Metro's marketing director, Jawauna Greene. Greene is the mastermind behind the swag store.  She's also behind the Youth Advisory Council. She's pictured here above the AD in the banner.

Greene famously called Metro customers "haters" on Twitter.

Is it just a coincidence that Vaughn, the owner of Chit Chat Media, and Metro's marketing directors are associated? These are screengrabs from Vaughn's LinkedIn.

Now, I'm not saying anything illegal is going on, but there's certainly a bad smell.

Especially when you find out that Cassandra Vaughn, also known as Cassandra Vaughn-Fox, was fired from channel 25 (CharmTV) in Baltimore for stealing over $12,000 from the city by abusing her city-issued credit card.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

During her tenure, Vaughn-Fox bought several cameras, camcorders and iPads that couldn't be accounted for, according to the report. She also bought multiple pairs of designer headphones, two seasons of HBO's "The Wire," $40 fountain pens, and books, including "I Want My Vagina Back" by Pamela Love Manning for $18.94, the report said.

Additionally, she purchased multiple e-books, songs and albums on iTunes and a dozen computer applications that cost between 69 cents and $13.99.

Here's Cassandra Vaughn-Fox in a story about her theft:

 Here she is from her LinkedIn:

One would think Metro would want to make sure our money wasn't being funneled to someone with this background. I mean if I was able to find out Metro was paying Cassandra Vaughn, it seems like Jawauna Greene could've done the same before funneling tens of thousands of dollars of our money her way.

I emailed Jawauna and Metro GM Paul Wiedefeld. They both worked at MTA, and rumor is Paul refers to Jawauna as "JoJo."

Neither responded.

According to a Metro source, "This is just a drop in the bucket. With dedicated funding watch out for more boondoggles." Two sources at Metro told me the waste going on at Metro is "worse than ever" under the current general manager.

Another source asked, "where is the Metro board? They're supposed to watch this kind of stuff."

"What other contracts has Metro awarded without doing any basic research?" asked another.

Perhaps most insulting about this whole thing is Wiedefeld's claim that there's no fat left to trim. Here's what he said to WAMU:

At some point there is nothing left for me to go to, and we are fast approaching that,” he said. “We are tightening as much as we can. I have looked under every rock I can to find dollars, but there is not a whole lot more to go to.

Given the boondoggle of the Youth Advisory Council, how can any of us, including the Metro board, trust such a bald-faced liar who lets his director of marketing funnel our money to someone who appears to be a thief?

Update: JoJo is leaving Metro for the Port Authority in New York City. It was likely something in motion before this post came out. These are hanging in the Metro HQ:

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