Members of the Urban League of Greater Hartford's board of directors are looking into a $15,000 consulting fee paid to the league's president by the company managing the city's massive school construction project.
James Willingham, who is also the league's chief executive officer, was paid by Diggs Construction in 2006 as a consultant to help the company find work.
Though not a developer, Willingham - who federal records show made roughly $185,000 in the 2007 fiscal year at the Urban League - said he used his contacts with the Urban League and his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, to help Diggs land a $20 million construction job in Texas.
Richard Barry, chairman of the Urban League's board and president of Citizens Bank, Connecticut, declined to say this week whether Willingham's job with the Urban League allows for such outside consulting work.
"The executive committee of the board is currently looking into this whole matter," Barry said. "Until we get through that whole review process, and until we have an opportunity to get back to the full board, we really can't comment."
"I didn't do anything wrong," Willingham said. "What's bothering me now is it's embarrassing the Urban League. I feel bad about that. But I have done nothing wrong and I would never jeopardize the integrity of the league, my family, or myself."
Willingham said he has met with the organization's executive committee, which is reviewing its policies, and he expects to discuss the issue further with the committee after the holidays.
Willingham was one of three people on the six-member committee that chose Diggs in 2001 to later get paid by Diggs Construction.
The second was former city Councilman Louis Watkins, who chaired the selection committee and who got an initial one-year, $3,000-a-month contract with Diggs to work as a liaison with the Hartford community in 2006. Watkins still works for Diggs.
The third was D. Anwar Al-Ghani, who by the time his contract with Diggs Construction expires in April 2009, will have made roughly $680,000 working as a liaison between Diggs and its minority contractors. The reconstruction of Hartford schools has caught the attention of a state grand jury investigating allegations of corruption at Hartford city hall, though the scope of that interest remains unclear.
At least two people familiar with the investigation said the grand jury has asked questions about who has been hired to work on the schools project and why.Copyright © 2015, CT Now