Baltimore Recreation and Parks Director Reginald Moore had the administrative power to hire a convicted felon in his department, but he should have disclosed the information to human resources officials.
That finding, issued today in a brief public synopsis of an investigation by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, provides a missing link to the story of Quinton D. Matthews.
The Georgia native was convicted as part of the biggest food stamp swindle ever prosecuted in the U.S. But coming to Maryland after prison, he now serves as athletic director for youth activities at Baltimore’s 51 recreation centers.
In July 2015, Matthews pleaded guilty to operating a criminal enterprise, masquerading as a grocery store in Macon, that exchanged cash for food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, Children) vouchers – sometimes at 15 cents on the dollar – then redeemed the sales at full value.
His was one of a statewide network of phony businesses set up by Brandon and Kimberly Sapp that redeemed more in WIC and SNAP sales than Wal-Mart and Kroger superstores, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
“The criminal organization defrauded WIC and Food Stamp programs of approximately $20 million,” a Justice Department press release stated, which the Sapps used to buy expensive cars, withdraw over $3 million in cash and “brazenly set up a record label named ‘We In Control,’ the acronym of which is WIC.”
At the time of Matthews’ guilty plea (along with 87 other defendants), Reginald Moore was then director of Parks and Recreation for Macon-Bibb County.
Matthews (also known as “Chuck Matthews” and “Q”) had worked at the agency as a health educator between 2007 and 2011, when Moore was the assistant director.
HR Not Notified
Two years later in July 2017, as Moore was settling into his new position as director of Baltimore’s Rec and Parks, Matthews was completing a prison sentence. As part of his conviction, he was ordered to pay $629,979.84 in restitution to the federal government.
Matthews soon applied for a job at Baltimore Rec and Parks.
Not surprisingly, BCRP’s background check uncovered a prior federal conviction, Cumming wrote today, without naming names. (The IG declined in a brief interview to speak beyond the investigative synopsis report, citing privacy concerns.)
Baltimore Human Resources, however, “was never notified of the prior conviction,” Cumming said.
”If so, they would have initiated a panel meeting to review the criminal background findings and make a hiring recommendation to the department,” she explained in the synopsis.
Rec and Parks hired Matthews in September 2018 as athletic director, a “position of trust,” at a salary of $76,500, according to online records.
The hiring was one of several appointments by Moore that sparked complaints to the OIG, Cumming wrote today.
The Brew had also heard from employees that the department had hired a convicted felon who was reportedly “the new director’s friend from his hometown.”
At the time of his hiring, probation officials would not confirm whether the released Quinton Matthews was working in Baltimore government.
And Moore, also contacted by The Brew at the time, did not respond to requests for information on the hire.
Matthews did not respond today to emailed questions about his past, and his voicemail was full.
The office of communications at Recreation and Parks, who were notified of our questions, also did not comment.
UPDATE: After publication, Matthews reached out to The Brew by phone. Asked if he was the person referred to in the IG report, he said, “I don’t know anything about that.” He declined to speak further, advising a reporter to direct questions to the “media and marketing department,” presumably meaning the office of communications.
Handling an “adverse background report”
In a written response to Cumming’s report, Quinton Herbert, head of HR, asserted that agency directors “have full discretion and final decisionmaking authority on determining whether to move forward with any employee with an adverse background report.”
HR, he said, can only make recommendations, and the agency would have deferred to Moore’s choice “even in the instance that the department had received full information.”
A criminal conviction does not necessarily disqualify a candidate “even for a position of trust,” Herbert told the IG. Rejecting a jobseeker for that reason could violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In evaluating a person with a criminal conviction, Herbert said, a department head should consider the “nature and gravity” of the offense, the amount of time that has passed since it was committed, and the type of job sought.
Matthews was hired by Rec and Parks three years after he pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy and roughly 15 months after he was released from prison.
In fiscal 2021, his salary as athletic director was $81,184, but his gross pay was $88,625.
This indicates that he received over $7,400 in overtime between July 2020 and June 2021, a period when rec centers were closed or under restricted hours due to the pandemic.