Those representing the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation had good reason to be furious. The University Park Alliance headed in a direction that broke from the application the foundation approved in routing a $6 million grant and a $1.5 million loan to the alliance.
That just isn’t acceptable, to say the least. The fallout from the episode has brought more than the foundation withdrawing its money. Lawsuits have followed, with related documents surfacing in news reports last week. Severe failings in operating the alliance have been exposed, for instance, consultants and other vendors unpaid.
Much blame has been heaped, and understandably so, on Eric Anthony Johnson, who resigned last spring as the alliance executive director. The foundation’s program director in Akron noted at one point that no one held rein on Johnson, adding: “There are many points along the path where the board could have spotted this.”
That is, the board of the alliance. The failure to communicate was massive, and Johnson alone wasn’t the problem. The board, featuring many of the leading power brokers in the city, including a representative of this newspaper, did not provide the necessary oversight.
More, as angry as Knight Foundation leaders are, they had a representative on the board, too, the program director for Akron.
Now, the question is: Will this ambitious project to remake 50 city blocks around the University of Akron gain a second life? The road back is difficult, obviously. Yet the concept remains promising, and the need clear.