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Atlantic City re-entry director out amid investigation

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Atlantic City’s re-entry director is out after the group the city contracted with to provide his services took "a pause," BreakingAC was told.

Cornell Davis was announced as the director Jan. 2, in a Facebook post by Mayor Marty Small.

The mayor later made it clear that Davis did not work for the city, since he was barred from public employment as part of a sentence for bribery in 2008.

Davis was Atlantic City Board of Education president when he took money for awarding a contract.

The city instead had a memorandum of understanding with Ideal Institute of Technology to provide a consultant for the re-entry program, which works out of the Carnegie building along One Neighborhood Evolution anti-violence group.

"One works with returning citizens, and the focuses on preventative measures," Small said of re-entry and anti-violence.

No consultant is named in the nine-page Ideal agreement. But some believed it was a way to get around Davis' inability to work directly for the city.

That seems to include the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, who is investigating the issue.

The negative focus has caused Ideal to take a step back from the issue.

"The city was notified from Ideal Institute that they're taking a pause for now due to the situation with the Prosecutor's Office," Small told BreakingAC.

Ideal found Ren Parikh previously said his group provides different people with work. Parikh's company also provides education to at-risk youth who have not been able to thrive in a traditional classroom.

He also does prison outreach.

Parikh did not immediately respond to a call for comment on Davis' contract.

Small has taken criticism from some in his moves to provide jobs to those who have been incarcerated.

But the state Department of Community Affairs backed much of the work, calling Atlantic City a "second-chance city."

It would not offer further comment on the Davis issue, reiterating that he is not a city employee.

The Prosecutor's Office does not officially confirm or deny ongoing investigations. But BreakingAC did previously confirm an investigation into both Davis' employment and that of Michele Griffin, program director for re-entry.

Griffin is on federal probation after a June 2022 sentencing. She admitted filing 19 false tax returns on behalf of six clients while working as a tax preparer in Galloway Township.

It does not appear her sentence included any public employment limitations.

As for the Davis issue, the mayor seemed frustrated by the negativity surrounding it.

"Cornell is a very intelligent person who has a passion because he’s dealing with it himself personally," Small said. "He’s got a college degree. He suffering because of an infraction from 20 years ago.

"I've just never seen anything like this in my life, where people are trying to stop a black man from providing for his family," he added.

The mayor also took issue with a report on the issue by radio host Harry Hurley, who Small often refers to as a "fraudcaster."

Hurley — who has been a critic of the "second-chance" hirings — said that the city fired Davis.

"Once again, the fraudcaster is spreading fake news," Small said. "How can you terminate someone who isn’t an employee?"

It was not clear if the city would now hire a director for re-entry.

author

Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, May 19, 2024
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