In Fulton County, Georgia, people with AIDS and HIV are caught in the crossfire after a nonprofit claimed that an important city contract was rescinded after its executive director refused the sexual advances of a city official.
That non-profit official is Jerome Brooks, Executive Director of Living Room, a non-profit dedicated to providing shelter for people with AIDS and HIV. A lawsuit filed by Living Room alleges that city officials withdrew funding from Living Room, after Brooks turned down Preston Brant, in charge of the city’s federally-funded Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.
Willoughby Mariano filed this report for the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“This is not just another story about ineptitude within the city bureaucracy,” the suit says. “Rather, this action involves a retaliatory campaign by the city’s Office of Human Services and Office of Grants Management to destroy Living Room and its Executive Director, Jerome Brooks.”
The suit claims Brooks reported Brant’s alleged sexual advances in a May 14 letter to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, but retaliation against the Living Room continued. Brant said Brooks’ claims are false.
“His allegations are 100 percent untrue,” Brant said. “I never desired to have, nor have I pursued a sexual or romantic relationship with him. I never asked him out on a date, ever.” Brooks declined comment. City spokesman Michael Smith said Tuesday that he would look into the issue but provided no response.
Brant was fired by the city May 24 on a separate accusation of inappropriate behavior with a client of the nonprofit, according to city personnel records. The events that led to Brant’s termination in May were not detailed in his personnel records, which the AJC obtained through an open records request. They do not mention Brooks’ complaint to Bottoms. The city audited the nonprofit in March and accused it of providing shoddy services and then on July 3 terminated the contract.
The July 10 suit is another ugly and complicated turn in the dispute that threatens to leave some 250 people living with AIDS and HIV homeless. Living Room stopped paying its portion of its clients’ subsidized rent as part of the city-run HOPWA program, which uses federal dollars to subsidize rent for low-income people with AIDS and HIV.