Written by John Face
March 5, 2022
Albion City Council member Nora Jackson is Director/President, of a non-profit she started called Divine Ministries, INC, DBA Difference Makers. The organization is a mentoring program for children stressing character building, personal training, relationship building and community service. Her organization which was licensed on June 17, 2019, has been operating in the Washington Gardner (WG) school on Michigan Avenue.
Former Albion College President Mat Johnson allowed Jackson to run her program for free at the WG school. When I asked Johnson last year during my interview if he was giving her special treatment or can any non-profit in town use the old school for free, he said he had no control over her usage as that was a deal, she had with the YMCA out of Battle Creek. The interview story that referenced this usage for Jackson was published on September 12, 2021, on City Watch Facebook page and subsequently on this site as well.
City Watch was supplied a copy of emails between Jackson and Jill Kingsley Hinde, Chief Executive Officer of the YMCA in Battle Creek. City Watch did not edit the emails in any way other than to remove the email addresses of the individuals mentioned. The email Jackson sent CC Mathew Johnson for some reason.
Here is the original email sent by Jackson on September 29, 2021, to Hindes:
From: Nora Jackson
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2021 4:26 PM
To: Jill Hinde
Cc: Mathew Johnson
Subject: YMCA- Difference Makers
We Difference Makers would like to know if we could continue our program in the space we used during the summer months? I have many childrens and families wanting to know when we can start back up again! I would like to begin in November if possible? I would like to be able to hold a couple of meetings next month to talk with parents as well. Can you please let me know if this is possible?
Hindes replied to Jackson the following day on the 30th:
From: Jill Hinde
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2021 11:15 AM
To: Nora Jackson
Cc: Mathew Johnson
Subject: RE: YMCA- Difference Makers
Nora—my approval is not necessary or required. The Y does not own the space at Washington Gardner and we have no authority to approve or deny a request for its use. The use of that space is a decision made between you and the College. Happy that hear that Difference Makers may be starting up again—I know it is a very successful program. Take care, Jill
Jill Kingsley Hinde
Chief Executive Officer
As you can see Ms. Hinde made it clear she had no control over Jacksons’ usage of the school and that proved Johnson mislead this reporter and the public. Why Ms. Jackson saw fit to attempt to get Hinde to state something that was untrue can only be answered by her. All this is important to remember because of what Jackson is trying to do now.
Tax Money Usage
Jacksons’ non-profit is funded much like others with donations and grant money. Everything City Watch has heard about the program has been positive. Though limited in the number of participants and it being a faith-based program they are considered to be successful. That brings us to early this year when Jackson was talking with City Manager Haley Snyder about her Dream Makers program via emails. City Watch was made aware of these emails and requested a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the city for copies of emails between Jackson and Snyder.
That FOIA was sent by this writer and acknowledged by city staff as received. The series of emails and attachments from Jackson was for using City of Albion Recreation tax money to fund her program. She submitted three different proposals for $26,456, $36,403 and the lowest being $25,779 for a grand total for the year $88,638. The budget proposal asked to cover everything from staff, bus rides, food etc.
Once I received the requested items, I spent time reviewing the information.
Withdrew Request for Council
After reading the FOIA City Watch saw that Jackson is looking to have the City of Albion to pay for her programs with tax money. Now there are several questions such as can a faith-based program receive tax money and should a sitting council member get tax money for her personal non-profit. Responding to Jacksons’ request Snyder stated in an email, “please note the language for the Recreation Millage is very specific on what/how funds can be utilized” Snyder went on to write that if after reviewing her budget and making sure it was legal, they could get this on the February 21st meeting agenda.
This writer reached out to Snyder to ask where this stood, specifically if she had approved the request to move forward to council. Snyder said the proposal has since been withdrawn by Jackson. When asked when and why she said it happened shortly after my FOIA was sent to her (Jackson) to reply with emails.
Council members can place anything on the agenda up until noon on the day of a meeting. This has been a tactic several current and past members of council have done as this gives the public little chance to know what is happening. There really is nothing to stop council from doing this again.
I have spoken with a real attorney, unlike the one I used in the past and they said this was this certainly inappropriate for an elected official to receive tax money for their non-profit and that could rise to the level of a criminal investigation. Follow City Watch for more of this story.