Lloyd Kellywhose HIV-prevention organization, the Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation ( LTLTF ) is under investigation for misusing state grant moneyfailed to take part March 18 at a scheduled hearing with representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH ) . That hearing, held by telephone, was one in a series in which IDPH is asking Kelly to account for parts of the $1.2 million the department gave to his organization. Kelly had been the group's executive director since its founding in 2002.
The grant was funded out of the African-American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, a legislative initiative intended to fight the spread of HIV infection in the Black community. Kelly helped conceive the fundwith state Rep. Constance "Connie" Howard, for whom he had worked as an unpaid aideand in 2007, LTLTF received the bulk of the initial $3 million appropriation. Howard was also a co-founder of the group.
Last year, IDPH announced that it was seeking the repayment of over $500,000 of that grant money. Separately, LTLTF is being asked to return a $500,000 grant it received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The organization received both grants in 2007.
Kelly said that he skipped the hearing with IDPH because he cannot afford a lawyer and sought, over the department's objections, to represent himself. IDPH spokesperson Melaney Arnold said that her department has filed a brief objecting to Kelly representing himself because "allowing Mr. Kelly to represent LTLTF would constitute the unlicensed practice of law." ( Kelly is not an attorney. )
She said that the judge in the case had not yet ruled on that objection. Arnold said that LTLTF's former lawyer "was granted leave to withdraw only weeks after entering his appearance."
Although Kelly declined to comment in Decemberwhen this story was initially reportedhe recently spoke with Windy City Times, denying wrongdoing and expressing frustration with the treatment of his organization by IDPH and other members of the LGBT community.
Kelly offered examples and defenses of the ways in which he spent IDPH grant money: At its peak, he said, LTLTF employed more than 30 full- and part-time employees. He added that between July and September 2007IDPH cut its check to the organization in August 2007LTLTF held "14 community events" that included HIV education and testing.
"We did not misappropriate anything," he said. "We did everything the contracts [ with the state ] called for."
Kelly did acknowledge that some of LTLTF's activities were undertaken "not in the most orthodox way." Some of the expenditures called into question, he said, were loans he made to individuals and organizations whose work coincided with LTLTF's.
When the LGBT organization Youth Pride Center was evicted from its offices, Kelly said, he loaned the organization $50,000 to open a new space. He said that from his perspective, YPC's work was relevant to his own: "They were a demographic that was really hit hard by HIV."
In another instance, Kelly said that LTLTF loaned money to an employee after his car was destroyed, since that employee's car was necessary to his work with the organization. Kelly said that the loan was repaid.
Kelly broadly defended the money he spent as being necessary to his organization. "It wasn't my money," he said. "It was for the community."
In addition to the hearings with IDPH, Kelly said, he has traveled to Springfield to meet with the representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A Windy City Times e-mail to the Springfield office of the FBI went unreturned at press time.