Community cross over DA's dismissal of organizer

The Suffolk County District Attorney's office is taking heat from residents for the abrupt firing of a Dorchester man who ran the Washington Street Corridor Weed and Seed Initiative. Adam Gibbons, coordinator of the Codman Square-based program for the last year, was unexpectedly sacked on Monday. The termination has outraged members of a grassroots board that helped to hire Gibbons.

Alison Carter-Marlowe, the interim chair of the initiative's steering committee, says that she and other officers were surprised when they learned of Gibbons' dismissal.

"A lot of folks are just really insulted," Carter-Marlowe told the Reporter this week. "Adam is integral. He submitted grants for this coming year just last week. To have him fired with any notice like this? We should have been aware. There should have been some indication that there's something afoot."

The Weed and Seed program is funded with federal dollars, but administered through District Attorney Daniel Conley's office. Gibbons was charged with following directives from a steering committee made up of local residents and merchants along the Washington Street corridor. The group's objective is to aid in anti-crime efforts by working with law enforcement to help guide strategy - and to build capacity on the civic front through mini-grants and large community meetings.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley, said that the dismissal was an internal personnel matter and would not provide details on the reasons behind it. Conley thanked Gibbons for his service, Wark said, but characterized the decision as one "in the best interest of the initiative moving forward."

Bill Walczak, executive director of the Codman Square Health Center and a member of the steering committee, says that he and others feel disrespected by Conley's decision to fire Gibbons without consulting them. Sources on the community group say that Conley's chief of staff told them he would come to a Wednesday meeting to explain the move and describe a future plan, but Walczak and Carter-Marlowe say that want an explanation directly from Conley.

"We want to know from him why the DA's office would usurp the community process in making this decision," says Walczak. "It was stunning to find that the DA's view is that we weren't in charge and that we didn't even deserve a phone call."

The Weed and Seed effort began in 2006, but was virtually dormant until Gibbons was hired in late 2007. Carter-Marlowe says that the drawn-out process of hiring a coordinator was frustrating - and worries that the anti-crime efforts will suffer from yet another prolonged search for a leader.

Gibbons would not comment this week on the reasons he was given for his termination other than to say he was "very surprised."

Last fall, Gibbons was transferred from an office in the Codman Square Health Center - space that was donated to the Weed and Seed initiative - into Conley's downtown offices. Carter-Marlowe says that it was a bad idea to shift Gibbons out of the neighborhood.

"We feel like he was being re-assigned to do the politics," said Carter-Marlowe. "Kids are just dropping left and right around here."