By Glynis Kazanjian
Montgomery County government may soon be paying close to $1 million a year in rent — above the market rate according to one expert — for a domestic abuse center in downtown Rockville that on average sees less than four clients a day. The innovative center celebrates its fourth anniversary Thursday (see sidebar below).
County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget includes new lease payments for an expansion to the Family Justice Center, a nationally recognized “one-stop-shop” domestic abuse center that houses public and private agencies in the same location. The county is moving ahead with that funding plan even though it’s possible the county’s payment could be reduced if it renegotiated an existing 12-year lease approved in 2008.
In the fiscal 2014 proposed budget, the county will be paying about $960,000 for the existing 23,907 square feet and another 5,500 square feet Leggett is requesting. The 2014 lease rate for the existing Justice Center space is about $31 per square foot, but it will go as high as $40.58 per square foot by 2020 because of a built-in annual escalation.
While the county is currently negotiating terms for its expansion, it’s not planning to renegotiate the full lease, said Cynthia Brenneman, director of the Montgomery County office of real estate. The County Council is expected to vote on Leggett’s $4.8 billion budget proposal May 23.
County paying ‘above market’ rent
The landlord for the building, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, is currently advertising additional space in the building for $26.50 to $27.50 a square foot — a third less than the amount the county will be paying in 2020 and $3.50 per square foot less than the 2014 lease rate. According to Rory Coakley, a leading commercial real estate broker in Montgomery County, the county should renegotiate its lease terms.
“The county is the true custodian of our tax dollars,” said Coakley, president of Coakley Realty, Inc. “It’s a tenant’s market right now. If a worthy, qualified tenant is in an above market lease, it would not be uncommon for that tenant to go back and ask for rent relief. It happens all the time. I have a management company. In many cases, I’m either keeping rents flat or I’m rolling them back to keep a good tenant, like Montgomery County.”Under Leggett’s proposal, the lease payments will increase from their current cost of about $777,900 in fiscal 2013, according to Brenneman. Current rent includes 78 parking spaces valued at $90 each per month.
Spokesman: expansion will allow more people served, better service
The new base rent for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, will be approximately $828,000, plus an additional estimated $132,000 the county executive’s office is requesting for the expansion. With an annual rent escalation built into the contract, and the addition of the new office space, rent would be around $960,000 in fiscal 2014 and likely surpass $1 million in fiscal 2015.
“We are looking to renew and expand in [our] current location,” said Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield. “The Family Justice Center delivers valuable one-stop assistance to folks in need. This expansion will enable them to serve more people and serve them better.”
The additional space would be used to offer career counseling, career training and enhance volunteer and internship programs for abuse victims. Since their doors opened in May 2009, the center has seen 5,000 victims and uses a “one-stop-shop” model where clients can obtain restraining orders, receive free legal counsel, obtain emergency immigration visas, if needed, and see counselors.
Non-profits, businesses help fund center
Non-profit groups like Catholic Charities and House of Ruth and businesses such as Verizon, Geico and Kaiser Permanente have been community partners since the center opened in May 2009. Some additional salaries for FJC-based staff are funded by federal and state grants through the Violence Against Women Act, totaling approximately $625,000 per year.
In April, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and other Maryland officials used the center as a backdrop to announce $2.3 million in grants for 12 jurisdictions across the country who demonstrate the coordinated team effort approach to reduce domestic violence.
Family Justice Center: One-stop aid for victims of domestic violence
The Montgomery County Family Justice Center, a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” for victims of domestic violence, will celebrate its fourth anniversary in downtown Rockville Thursday.
The Family Justice Center (FJC) is a multi-agency domestic abuse facility, funded publicly and privately, that facilitates an array of services for abuse victims under one roof. To date, the center has seen approximately 5,000 victims of domestic abuse; approximately 55% are foreign born.
The entire domestic violence section of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department — about two dozen people — is based at the Family Justice Center, according to Family Justice Center Director Hannah Sassoon. Staff from the county’s State Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Police Department and the Department of Health and Human Services also have offices at the center.
“There are about 96 staff assigned to the FJC from various departments and private agencies who collaborate with us on the project,” Sassoon stated.
In 2012, there were 1,893 protective orders served in Montgomery County and five “intimate-partner” homicides as a result of domestic violence, according to Sassoon.
At the center, clients can seek emergency protective orders, receive legal counsel, learn about immigration protections under the Violence Against Women Act and get counseling. Through the use of pro-bono attorneys provided by Catholic Charities, the center has qualified 71 clients for emergency immigration visas. There is also a children’s waiting room and a fully equipped kitchen with daily breakfast baked goods provided by Panera Bread.
Funding: federal, state and county, plus private
Federal and state grants, county funds and money raised through the center’s nonprofit Family Justice Center Foundation are used to fund and operate the center. Some of the sponsors include Catholic Charities, House of Ruth, Verizon Wireless, Geico Philanthropic Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.
The center is located across the street from Richard Montgomery High School, on the fifth floor of the office building at 600 Jefferson Street, also known as the “Eagle Building.” The Rockville Metro is two blocks away, and cab fare is provided if victims need assistance getting to the center.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm. To reach the The Family Justice Center call 240-773-0444 or go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/fjc. For 24-hour assistance, call the center or the crisis hotline at 240-777-4000.
The FJC handles mostly cases between
parents of minor children. All legitimate
modern research reveals that class of
cases,should be strictly mediated; the
use of adversarial methods of dispute
resolution is normally very harmful to
the children. FJC spends a million on
rent and a few million or more on staff,
and employs only adversarial methods
and adversarial services on parents,
children and families, presumably harming
all or nearly all the families “served,”
while taxpayers foot the hefty bill?
This is an excellent article, and FYI this pattern is typical. I have personal experience (as DV survivor) with family justice centers “handling” of clients and have been noticing the patterns of raising money, acquiring capital (or expensive leases, plush surroundings, great website) and some funky tax returns. I last sought help from stalking by an ex-batterer and an immediate relative, spoke directly to leadership and was told it wasn’t, somehow, “family violence.” Why? No kids in the home= doesn’t matter any more? I have tracked funding and incorporations in the founding model (San Diego) and others, blogged some of it, and would like to talk to this author (as well as say thank you). Money is being donated to entities which DO NOT EXIST, or are formed, then abandoned. In San Diego, I’ve counted about four different nonprofits, nonfiling and you can see the money move around. It was Camp Hope, Inc., San Diego Family Justice Center (later “nat’l family Justice Center Alliance, a namechange). Camp Hope Inc doesn’t file for several years !! then suddenly shows up flush with $2 million (assets/revs), then claims they ceased operations and gave it all to “National Deaf Advocacy” (or such) — which it turns out had suddenly just moved out of the same street address as the other two. After dissolving themselves (and there seems to be some missing money — quite a bit of it) then ANOTHER “Camp Hope California” (at same street address in San Diego).. San Diego Family Justice Center FOUNDATION (vs. just the “Center”) was not incorporated until this past February 2014, yet it was alleged taking donations in the early 2000s, per Verizon, per “Caseygwinn.com” and an American Camping Magazine……
I see in Montgomery County, you have a “foundation” with an EIN# but it seems no main nonprofit identity for the Center itself. So what bank accounts do the donations go into? Watch exact name business identity– it’s important.
In Alameda County FJC, the initial head of it “just so happened” to be a married to a career politician (3rd wife, about 30 yrs younger than him), Bill Lockyer. They then spent $1 million on a county supervisor campaign (off the charts for the situation), won it — and later had to step down in disgrace of endangering their son in events involving the same elements these centers are supposed to HELP people with. She was in rehab, had had an affair and ended up calling 911 for help regarding DV, in other words, extremely bad judgment overall. Meanwhile, people with more average lifestyles are wondering, if this is “leadership,” then who do we report crimes to?
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http://tiny.cc/rymuix = “Down the Rabbit Hole with the ACFJC, Inc.” sample of tracking corporate identities. That site is personal to my case, however. We are being repeatedly traumatized, my were first taken (overnight, illegally), nothing done to reverse or intervene by DAs, and when they were later abandoned as minors with an ex-girlfriend, to get them back. Make no mistake, this kind of negligence keeps people at risk. My daughter allegedly tried to harm herself and was institutionalized for it, I was NOT informed by her father or anyone, and through YEARS in the family courts, not in a position to help her. If they will not help anyhow, why would they be funded? People at risk ask for interventions = more DV funding, get it?
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I have noticed the rapid expansion of this model, especially in 2014. I’ve done a lot of groundwork compiling stats, but I am myself a DV survivor with current issues to deal with. The information is objective, can be obtained by anyone with a little knowhow and the attention span. Systematically laid out, there are patterns, and that pattern is forming umbrella agencies to (IMHO) obfuscate the funding, acquire more assets, and in return for no obligation to deliver one iota more services, or for that matter, any more services than is needed to keep up appearances.
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Please contact me @ http://tiny.cc/0pmuix (familycourtmatters.wordpress.com) Over 600 posts, 5 years worth. I am networked among both fathers and mother’s groups and among too few investigative bloggers who seem to “get” how to connect the dots on the funding, and where those dots are NOT connected, which is what the public should be most concerned about. I am not a member of any professional trade association or advocacy group that stands profit from blogging this, and doing it for my own (now young adult) children and in the public interest.
Thanks for publishing with those links. Keep eyes on the Montgomery Family Justice Center (and foundation) books, pay attention… It’s sad there weren’t more comments to this article….
We need to elect politicians who do not feel it their duty to find every way possible to hand all public money to corporate profit….which is what this does. These are Third Way corporate democrats working as hard as republicans for wealth and corporate profit. Simply retake the democratic party by running and voting for labor and justice!!!!!
This is obscene!
There are 168 hours in every week. The FJC operates only during business hours, from 8:30 AM and 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Closed holidays. The building is locked and no-one answers the phones 80% of the time.
One wonders how much unnecessary office space is being paid for at above-market rates, given that police, court services, church and charity services (such as House of Ruth) are available 24/7/365 at other locations while FJC is closed.
In this environment, the county wants to rent 23% more space?