William Penn Foundation Lifts Suspension of Grants to City Agencies

Following a ruling by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics that grants awarded to city agencies were not considered a form of lobbying, the William Penn Foundation has announced that it would again consider grant requests from city departments and related entities, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Earlier this month, the foundation suspended grantmaking to agencies affiliated with the city, citing a complaint filed by public education advocates alleging that the foundation had violated the city's lobbying code when it helped fund the work of the Boston Consulting Group to develop a restructuring plan for the School District of Philadelphia without registering as a principal. Last week, Helen Davis Picher, the foundation's interim president, said in a statement that the foundation was "awaiting further clarification with regard to its scope concerning permissible grant activity."

The board of ethics' ruling, which did not specifically mention BCG, cited two examples listed by Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter in his request for clarification: a request by the city's Department of Parks and Recreation for funding from the foundation for a proposed trail extension on the Schuylkill River, and an application by the city to Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge. When asked if the decision could be applied to the BCG situation, board of ethics executive director J. Shane Creamer, Jr. told PlanPhilly that he could not comment on the complaint.

"The foundation is appreciative of the action taken today by the board of ethics to clarify the scope of the city's lobbying registration and reporting ordinance," William Penn Foundation spokesperson Tim Spreitzer said in an e-mailed statement, PlanPhilly reports. "We look forward to resuming the foundation's thoughtful consideration of grant requests from city departments and city-related agencies, as well as related monitoring activities."