Brown Hope To Move Forward With Basic Income Program After CEO Ouster, Reinstatement

Brown Hope
Brown Hope members at a Juneteenth canvassing event

Board president Gregory McKelvey says he will step in on an interim basis after founder’s removal

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Cameron Whitten announced Thursday morning that he will be reinstated as active CEO of Brown Hope, the organization he founded in 2018. 

In a message released on his Facebook and Twitter accounts Thursday, Whitten wrote that the organization’s board had met and decided to reaffirm him as the organization’s CEO, which board president Gregory McKelvey confirmed.

“It is impossible to provide a detailed explanation to the recent media articles, as they involve confidential personnel matters. I can confirm that our third party legal and human resources staff is working with the Board of Directors to ensure a fair and thorough investigation process,” Whitten wrote.

The announcement comes less than 24 hours after board president Gregory McKelvey told Oregon Business he would be stepping in as interim CEO, and that Brown Hope will move forward with its plans for a basic income program.

Whitten was placed on paid administrative leave from his this role as CEO Dec. 8.

“Cameron Whitten is currently on paid leave, but Brown Hope is open and continues to serve our mission to nurture seeds for racial justice and healing. I cannot discuss details because it’s our policy not to share personnel issues publicly, regardless of their position. For now, I’ll be stepping in on an interim basis,” McKelvey wrote Wednesday.

The news of Whitten’s removal came just two days after the organization announced it would be rolling out a monthly income guarantee to 25 Black families in Multnomah County over a three-year period.

The organization announced its plans for the program in June as a restructuring of the Black Resilience Fund, which was launched in June 2020 to provide direct assistance to Black Portlanders.

On Monday, OregonLive reported the Oregon Department of Justice is planning to investigate the organization.

It’s unclear what prompted Whitten’s removal or the investigation. McKelvey told Willamette Week the board had become aware of “serious allegations” that merited an independent investigation.

A spokesperson for the DOJ gave few details, but said Brown Hope had failed to provide its 2021 tax filings by Nov. 15 as required by state law. The spokesperson said this was uncommon, but not that the action necessarily “raises any huge alarms.”

Whitten founded Brown Hope in 2018. Funding for the Black Resilience Fund reached $1 million less than a month after its 2020 launch, according to the nonprofit.

The nonprofit says more than 11,000 people applied for the guaranteed income program, slated to provide $2,000 a month to 25 Black residents.

The Black Resilience Fund’s launch follows other basic income experiments taking place around the country, including a basic income project managed by the homeless services organization Path Home, which offers $575 in cash assistance for families over two years.

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) in California, which also has a racial justice component, released a study last year which found the program improved participants’ job prospects, financial stability and overall well-being during the program’s inaugural year. The Stockton Study had 125 participants receiving $500 dollars a month.

 Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.

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