The controversial needle exchange program that has been described as irresponsible by residents and government officials for unloading millions of needles, some of which ended up on public parks and sidewalks, sought more time to answer the 12 summonses issued by the Paterson Division of Health on Friday morning.
Jerome King, the executive director of the Well of Hope, accompanied by his attorney, appeared at the Paterson Municipal Court to answer health violations. His attorney Dakota Kuykendall told municipal judge Giuseppe Randazzo the Well of Hope needed more time to correct issues with the building at 207 Broadway.
“There’s an issue of who is responsible,” said Kuykendall after the hearing in the hallway of the Paterson Municipal Court. “The Well of Hope is being blamed for things it is not responsible for.”
Kuykendall said some of the issues are “structural” that have to be addressed by the landlord. The nonprofit organization, which provides other social services from the spot, leases the building from the New Shiloh Missionary Gospel Church.
King, who has been severely criticized by community leaders over the past months, declined to comment.
Councilman Michael Jackson, who sits on the board of the New Shiloh Missionary Gospel Church, has said the church is attempting to evict King and his troubled organization out of the building.
The church has filed in the New Jersey Superior Court seeking to oust the group from the building. A court date at the landlord-tenant section has been scheduled for middle of October, said Jackson on Friday afternoon.
King received the 12 summonses after inspectors from the Paterson Health Department found unsanitary conditions at his facility. There were obstructed hand washing facilities, no running hot water, no paper towels, and debris and dust inside the refrigerator. Missing tiles on the floor indicates a possible vermin problem, according to reports filed by inspectors.
“This establishment (kitchen) is deemed unsatisfactory and must remain closed until coming in to compliance,” reads the health inspection report from Aug. 23, 2017.
The group failed health inspection two years in a row. As a result, it is prohibited from serving any food or beverages to its client, according to health officials.
King attempted to thwart inspectors by getting health and human services director Donna Nelson-Ivy involved. Nelson-Ivy has been the strongest defender of the program. Text messages exchanged between her and King shows she attempted to shield the Well of Hope from inspectors.
Nelson-Ivy’s effort to shield the program failed. Community leaders slammed her for defending a program that services out-of-town drug addicts. As controversy swirled around the Well of Hope and protesters gathered outside of it, King claimed the program was shuttering and then reversed course few days later.
Community leaders described King’s strange announcements of closing and re-opening as a “smokescreen” to divert attention from his troubled organization which had $574,159 in revenue in 2015, according to a federal tax return. The group showed a negative $8,834 income in 2015, the most recent available tax return.
King, a resident of Lodi, draws a $90,000 salary from the Well of Hope.
The Well of Hope is scheduled for a court hearing on Nov. 17, 2017 at 8:45, according to court officials.