The motivation behind recent events that went down in the 22nd Ward is unclear, but this much is known: Jeff Boyd, executive director of the Union West Community Corp., was dismissed by the organization's board, and three board members resigned in protest. According to Boyd and board member/recording secretary Nadine Nunn, Boyd was let go after Ald. Kenneth Jones (D-22nd) put pressure on the board because he thought Boyd had supported a Jones opponent in the March primary. Boyd denies campaigning for anyone else. The usually loquacious Jones isn't talking.
According to Nunn, Jones was blunt with the board of directors, stating that if they didn't fire Boyd, he would not allow money from the city's Community Development Agency (CDA) or other funds that flow through City Hall to go to the neighborhood corporation, which serves an area bounded by the city limits and Union, Martin Luther King and Page boulevards. Nunn, an attorney who grew up in the neighborhood but now lives in Jennings, was startled that Jones would be so heavy-handed. Plus, no one seemed to have evidence that Boyd supported anyone against Jones.
Boyd tried to make the case that he had been successful in raising grant funds from other institutions and that other political pressure could be used to get government funds, but in the end the board didn't want to take that chance.
"I thought it was a dangerous precedent to have the board dictated to by an alderman," says Nunn of Jones' threat. "He told us he would hold funds hostage unless we terminated Jeff Boyd. The board felt if there was no aldermanic support, they would never get the CDA funds, so they decided that was worth more than the executive director's grant-writing possibilities."
Union West Community Corp. was formed in 1987 and is active in rehabilitating houses and carrying out projects in the neighborhood, such as a recent effort to clear land for a ballfield. Both Boyd and Nunn blame Jones for dragging his feet on the ballfield project because he was busy with his campaign. "The ballfield project has been held up a long time, and pretty soon summer will be over," says Nunn.
Asked about the situation at Friday's Board of Aldermen meeting, Jones took the no-comment route: "The board removed him. I have nothing to say," Jones said as he backpedaled away, looking dapper as usual in a white guayabera shirt. As for which candidate Boyd supported in the election, Jones said, "I don't know who he voted for I didn't go in the booth with him."
Nunn says Jones' flamboyant reputation had preceded him but that she hadn't seen it in action until Jones told her he didn't care what she thought because she "didn't even live in the neighborhood" and "can't vote for me one way or the other."
"I had heard people say things about him, that he was difficult and things of that nature, but at the meeting, if I could have strangled him, I would have. It was like this little Napoleon is dictating to everybody what you should do about money, without any concrete evidence," says Nunn.
Boyd could try getting his job back, but meanwhile the corporation has suffered a setback. "I hate that the things the community was trying to do will be put in jeopardy because of this perceived campaign issue," says Nunn. "I think that's ludicrous."