Ald. McGee Declares OIC-GM Vital To a Prosperous Milwaukee

by Janice Christensen Alderman Mike McGee, 6th District, says he’s had enough. He says the many overwhelmingly positive contributions that the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Greater Milwaukee makes to the city are being unfairly tarnished. Along with Rep. Annette Polly Williams, County Supervisor Willie Johnson, Jr. and other elected officials and community members, Ald. McGee held a news conference and rally in support of OIC-GM on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at the OIC Leon H. Sullivan Center, 2947 N. Martin Luther King Dr. Ald. McGee, whose 6th Aldermanic District is home to a sizable contingent of OIC clients, said the event is a “call to arms” for people who know the agency’s vital, community-building work. “OIC has served our community successfully for more than 30 years, and it is also one of the largest single employers of people of color in the state, with more than 400 employees,” McGee said. “We’re talking about a social service agency that has grown into a visionary, multi-faceted, multi-million dollar community and economic development engine for the City of Milwaukee, and I believe it is worthy of our support at this crucial hour.” On Oct. 8 The OIC-GM Board of Directors met in a special session and unanimously appointed Attorney Tyrone Dumas as the new full-time interim president during the nationwide search for a permanent OIC leader. Mr. Dumas replaced Carl A. Gee, who served as OIC-GM president for 36 years, and under whose direction the annual budget of the organization and its affiliates grew to $65 million. Mr. Dumas was selected to provide leadership during this transitional period. He has served as Director of Public Works where he managed more than 700 employees and a combined operating and capital budget in excess of $200 million. OIC was implicated during 2004 in a kickback scandal involving Wisconsin Works (W-2) funds funneled to former State Sen. Gary George, currently serving a prison term. Former OIC President Gee was convicted of conspiracy in that scheme and the illegal use of additional W-2 Funds. He will be sentenced Dec. 8. On Nov. 23 the state Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announced that it was cutting at least one-third of the OIC caseload of 4,641 W-2 families, and that cuts may rise to two-thirds starting next year. In a letter to OIC released Nov. 23, the Dept. of Workforce Development stated that OIC had improperly spent W-2 funds. OIC will repay almost $430,000 to the public coffers. YW Works, a subsidiary of the YWCA, will be taking over many of the W-2 cases from OIC. YW Works failed to have their own W-2 contract renewed last year after criticisms of a low level of job placements, overreacting to client rule infractions and payment of high executive salaries. Mr. Dumas is enthusiastic about taking on the revitalization of OIC. After seven weeks of hard work, he feels ready to negotiate with the State to delineate the agency’s ongoing role in providing W-2 services to some of Milwaukee’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and to maintain the organization’s diverse community programs.
by Janice Christensen