By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
A website is supposed to give people an idea of who the site’s owner is. This can be accomplished with photos, cool graphics, and solid, interesting writing and accurate information about how to interact or conduct your business with them. You might say, a website paints a portrait of an organization. Sometimes however, it reveals more than the site’s owner or organization intends or realizes. Such is the case with the Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation (NCIF) and its website. .
The Natchitoches Community Improvement is a foundation which has been court ordered to distribute 1.8 million in settlement funds to the citizens of Natchitoches in the areas of recreation, education, housing, and economic development. The settlement resulted from a lawsuit filed after it was reported that Tennessee Gas spilled pcbs in Sibley Lake in the late 1990s. But NCIF itself has been involved in lawsuits and controversy due to public dissatisfaction with how the money has been handled and the low amounts of money actually given to the public since the settlement. In 2014, an audit revealed that $19,500 was unaccounted for. The foundation has still not told the public what happened to that money. The foundation has also not made it easy for the public to access information. In particular, info about public meetings can be hard to find. The way the website has been designed reflects that. Consider the following troubling characteristics of the website:
• Figure 1: Website features members who no longer are on the board. For instance, James Below, Billye Sue Johnson, Estelle McGill, Ed Ward and Catherine Hoover are all no longer on the board.
• Figure 2: One member is deceased, yet is still listed as serving in office as vice president, With due respect, It is a fact that Kelvin Porter, unfortunately passed away not long ago.
• Figure 3: Under section about meetings, the meeting locations and times are missing and all information is from 2019 even as I accessed the site a few days ago. Note also it says TBD which means that even last year, they never actually posted the information online.
• New members Edwin Poe and DeMarquis Hamilton are not listed at all.
• Figure 4: Under the “Grants awarded” section, it only gives information up to the year 2018. This is tail end of 2020.
The question isn’t just “Is this any way to run a website?” The more important question is, “Is this any way to run a foundation that is ordered by the court to distribute 1.8 million dollars to citizens of Natchitoches?”
The Natchitoches Community Improvement Foundation Board members are: Oswald Taylor, Mildred Joseph, Gwen Antee Hardison-Davis, Shaniqua Hoover, Brenda Milner, Gwendolyn Williams, Edwin Deon Powe, Renee Porter, DeMarquis Hamilton, (the following are sitting on the board although according to NCIF bylaws, their term limits are up: Leo Walker, Diane Blake Jones).
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”—Jesus in John 8:32