The Ghetto Governor

Dorrin Rolleís dedication to his district is in question

But for inner-city residents like Dennis, Scott-Carver's demolition is demonstrative of Rolle's inability to lead. Rolle promised jobs to people in the community but has not delivered, Dennis seethes. While contractors and builders who contribute to Rolle's campaigns win the rights to redevelop the community, black-owned firms are not getting any of the work, Dennis adds. "Where is the economic development?" he questions. "I have young brothers coming up to me every day asking me about jobs. No one wants to be selling drugs on a street corner."

Dennis should know. He has publicly admitted to selling drugs in the past. In 1991 he was convicted of felony possession of marijuana, and in 1994 he was twice convicted of felony aggravated battery.

Rolle is worse than the young black men killing each other over turf and dope-game supremacy, Dennis says. "Rolle is like a tribal chief in Africa who will kill his entire tribe and put them in mass graves," he sneers. "He is killing us all at once by doing nothing."

Dorrin Rolle
Steve Satterwhite
Dorrin Rolle
Lawyer Al Maloof (shown here) says Dorrin Rolle is a man of 
Bill Cooke
Lawyer Al Maloof (shown here) says Dorrin Rolle is a man of integrity

Unless there is a dead body and television cameras, the hood doesn't see Rolle, Dennis complains. Indeed there was Rolle, along with County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, holding a rally in late May to exhort witnesses to help police solve the murders of three black Carol City teenagers killed in a seven-month span. Just recently Rolle was among local black politicians who attended a prayer vigil for nine-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins, who died from a gunshot wound to the neck while playing with a doll on her front stoop.

Dennis extends a hand and points to the empty tract that was once Scott-Carver. "Whenever the powers-that-be want something done, they get a puppet," Dennis rhapsodizes. "Rolle is not the king of the chessboard. He doesn't have any rooks or bishops. He is just one of the pawns."

In 1972 Rolle took a job as a social worker for JESCA, an organization that dates back to 1925, when ex-U.S. Army Capt. James E. Scott founded the Colored Association for Family Welfare, a community center and day nursery. The nonprofit later changed its name in honor of its founder.

Today JESCA is the largest social service agency in the southeastern United States. According to JESCA's 2005 financial statement, the agency generated $8.4 million in revenue — most of it from local, state, and federal grants.

For instance, JESCA receives roughly three million dollars annually from the federal government's Head Start/Early Childhood Development program to provide subsidized preschool and daycare, as well early-childhood education, to low- and moderate-income families.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice pays JESCA $827,820 a year to run Floyd House, a juvenile probation and rehabilitation program with two sites in Miami-Dade. Since 2004, the City of Miami has awarded JESCA $390,000 in public service grants. Last year Miami-Dade County gave $1.8 million to the organization.

Through government funds administered by the United Way of Miami-Dade, JESCA receives an estimated $300,000 a year. Between 2003 and 2005, Miami-Dade Public Schools kicked in $1.8 million to pay for JESCA's Roving Leaders program, developed by Rolle to help potential dropouts graduate from high school and receive job training.

Rolle's first assignment was working with juveniles on the streets of Liberty City. In the late Seventies and through the Eighties, Rolle ran the agency's ex-offender program, which assists people released from jail with obtaining schooling, jobs, and counseling.

In 1991 JESCA's longtime chief Archie Hardwick and fiscal director George Thoroman were accused of swindling the social service agency out of public funds meant to help the needy. Hardwick was forced to step down. On April 6, 1992, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office charged Hardwick and Thoroman with grand theft. Prosecutors alleged Hardwick spent $800,000 of the organization's money on luxury cars, women, jewelry, and a nose job. Three years later, Hardwick was sentenced to 60 years in state lockup. He died in a prison hospital in 1997. Thoroman pleaded guilty in 1997 and was sentenced to four and a half years in jail.

In October 1992, after Miami lawyer and former Florida Secretary of State Jesse McCrary helped reorganize the reeling agency, JESCA's board selected Rolle as its chief executive over two other finalists. McCrary, then the nonprofit's chairman, hailed Rolle's appointment as a big step toward JESCA's recovery.

During the first weeks as JESCA's new leader, Rolle took steps to improve the morale of more than 200 employees, setting up a retirement benefits program and a credit union. In conjunction with the board and some of JESCA's private benefactors, Rolle added financial safeguards such as providing detailed monthly financial reports to the board of directors.

Richard Dunn II, a former Miami commissioner and head of the People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE), credits Rolle for turning JESCA around. "He overcame insurmountable odds, and he has been a stabilizing force for JESCA," Dunn says.

But as a county commissioner, Rolle is compromised, says Dunn. Rolle cannot draw a hard line against the county manager and his fellow county commissioners because the Ghetto Governor relies on them to approve hundreds of thousands of public dollars for JESCA, Dunn offers.

Rolle also must tread carefully on controversial issues in the City of Miami, Dunn adds. "He has some 200 employees relying on him to pay their salaries," he says. "He also has to factor in his own salary. His main concern is his meat and potatoes."

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