Pam Iorio, the former mayor of Tampa, is the pick to lead the Philadelphia-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s most recognizable mentoring outfit but an organization with fences to mend in Washington.
Iorio, whose hire was announced late on Friday, joins BBBSA after a year in which the 110-year-old organization had the use of its federal grants questioned by the Department of Justice.
She replaces Charles Pierson, who moved into the national leadership role in June 2012, after serving nearly a decade as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star.
BBBSA’s problems began before Pierson. In total, BBBSA received 13 grants for a total of $68.5 million from OJJDP for mentoring. The Justice Department audit released last summer questioned the use of $23.2 million in federal grants from fiscal 2009, 2010 and 2011.
All three of the grants came from the mentoring programs, national and tribal, operated by DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
From the audit:
“We determined that all BBBSA expenditures were unsupported due to commingling of funds and that BBBSA was in material non-compliance with the essential grant requirements in the areas we tested.”
The Justice Department halted the final $3.7 million in funding that had been awarded to BBBSA under those grants. It did, however, grant BBBSA $7 million to expand its “Juvenile Justice Initiative” in 2012.
Iorio, 54, served as the mayor of Tampa from 2003 until 2011 and left office as an extremely popular public figure in Hillsborough County. She then agreed to serve as interim head of county-area nonprofit The Children’s Board, which had run into financial controversy and leadership that had lost the confidence of the rank and file.
Iorio will take office on March 31, and will split time between her Florida home and Philadelphia.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change