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Local nonprofit denied COVID grant over 'political agenda,' could become legal battle

Posted at 12:02 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 03:02:39-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — One local nonprofit's social media posts could cost them more than a million dollars of funding from Kern County's board of supervisors.

Now leaders involved are weighing in.

This all started on Facebook, back in June when the nonprofit Building Healthy Communities Kern posted links and information for the public to defund police departments and to remove officers from the Kern High School District. Now the ALCU is speaking out on this matter stating the nonprofit has First Amendment protected speech.

On Oct. 20 during a Board of Supervisors meeting, there was a discussion of awarding contacts to local organizations.

One of the organizations was the nonprofit Building Healthy Communities who were seeking a $1.2 million grant that would promote COVID-19 outreach to minority communities in Kern County.

That was halted after Supervisor Zack Scrivner said he would not support the contract based on what he said was a "political agenda" after the nonprofit published on Facebook 10 posts asking the community to defund law enforcement and the Kern High School Police Department in Kern High Schools.

"Respectfully, this does not fit in with the majority of the county of Kern that is a radical and political agenda that gives me great pause in awarding a contract with an organization that took on that cause," said Zack Scrivner, Kern County's Second District Supervisor.

Supervisors Gleason and Maggard also agreed with Scrivner but the nonprofit says this is a public health concern and should not be made political. The Kern Public Health Department shared they were planning to work with the nonprofit to help reduce the positivity COVID rate of 5.5% in the community.

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is looking into the matter and are hoping that the board can change their decision before escalating to legal action.

"This is a legal matter of the utmost importance because the first amendment protects our ability to speak out without fear of official governmental reprisal but that's exactly what happened here," said Jordan Wells, an attorney for ACLU Southern California.

"So while it's a legal we hope this can be resolved through political channels and that the board of supervisors goes back and fix the mistake they made."

23ABC did reach out to Scrivner for comment but have not heard back at this time.