Gang agency leader resolute

The leader of an embattled South Los Angeles gang intervention agency has pledged to press on with his work, even as he conceded that his agency is about to lose its contract in a second pocket of the city, two weeks after City Hall officials severed ties with him.

"It's in God's hands now," said Kevin Mustafa Fletcher, a former member of the Swan gang and the executive director of Unity T.W.O., one of the city's more high-profile gang intervention agencies.

In an impassioned three-hour interview at his Avalon Boulevard headquarters Wednesday, Fletcher said he had been unfairly targeted -- swept up in politics and abandoned by former allies who are themselves looking to cash in on the flood of public money that the city is setting aside for gang intervention.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's spokesman, Matt Szabo, had said previously that terminating the contract with Unity T.W.O. was determined to be "in the best interest of the city." He said Thursday that he was unable to comment further.

Documents obtained in July by The Times, including financial reports and e-mails sent between Unity T.W.O. and City Hall, revealed that Unity T.W.O. had struggled with managing money and meeting administrative deadlines.

But Fletcher insisted that his only real management blunder came in December 2008, when his bank accounts had dwindled to the point at which he was forced to choose between paying employees or paying bills to insurance and workers' compensation firms.

He chose the bills, he said, after asking employees to volunteer their time -- and was then assailed as incompetent by city officials, he said.

"Are those two bills worth some people's lives?" Fletcher asked. "Because let's get real. That's what we're talking about here."

Unity T.W.O. negotiated a series of agreements between rival gangs, most notably a pact between the Swans and the East Coast Crips, that contributed to a dramatic drop in gang violence in South L.A.

"There are two sides to every story," Fletcher said. "What other agency is doing what I am doing?"

Now, he said, his 25 employees are "out on the street for the summer with no job."

"Those same people put their lives on the line for this city," he said.

Unity T.W.O. has received at least $350,000 in tax dollars this year to provide services through the city's Office of Gang Reduction & Youth Development.

The city ended its contract with Unity T.W.O. at the end of July; that contract was to provide services in a pocket of South L.A. bisected by Slauson and Van Ness avenues.

Unity T.W.O. had also been the lead subcontractor providing intervention services in a second zone along South Central Avenue. Fletcher said he recently received a letter from the contractor in that zone, the nonprofit Soledad Enrichment Action, terminating that contract.

Cesar Calderon, the nonprofit's executive director, could not be reached Thursday.

Fletcher said he was beginning to search for grant money to fund his agency, but in the meantime would continue working to reduce violence.


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