According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Horrigan said he denied funding for Garrett’s Beyond Expectations Barber College because he wants “to completely avoid any possible public perception of impropriety.”
Garrett fired back, saying Horrigan’s decision was “another attack on an African-American business owner.”
The barber shop college was expecting to receive $25,000 in federal funds and reduce tuition costs for students. However, the city is now facing criticism from students and community leaders after blocking the funds. Supporters of the college said the city is withholding the funds as political retribution against the barber college owner.
Horrigan responded to the criticism, saying the accusations are “wholly inaccurate” and “insulting to the dedicated team of public servants who diligently work on these kinds of funding requests.”
Garrett applied for the grant before he decided to run for council, the Beacon Journal reported. As he turned his attention to his campaign, Garrett also handed operations of his business to his partner. The Akron entrepreneur said his plan was to reimburse $5,000 in tuition for low-income students using the funds.
“So, it’s not even enough to cover a full students’ tuition,” he told the Beacon Journal.
Although the city’s Law Department stated that there is nothing unethical about awarding a grant to the business of a person running for an at-large city council seat, the administration still denied the funding.
In a letter he wrote to address questions from the City Council, Horrigan said Garrett’s college has relied on grant funding too much. According to the letter, the city has awarded two grants of $31,500 and two awards of $15,000 in the past four years to Garrett’s college.
The mayor said Garrett has multiple businesses that have received funding. According to the mayor, the awards given to Garrett include a $12,250 “Great Streets” facade grant for the Akron Legends Barbershop and $30,000 worth of ARPA business relief grants in for three of Garrett’s other businesses, as well as $10,000 each for Beyond Expectations Barber College, Akron Legends Barbershop and Kids Academy.
Garrett said his records shouldn’t have an impact on his current plan.
“It has nothing to do with any of my other businesses,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, you pursue any grants that are available.”
Mayor-elect Shammas Malik praised Garrett’s Barber College for making a positive impact on students.
“I’m going to be really focused on talking to (BEBC Executive Director Daniel Williams) to make sure that there isn’t any conflict and that there’s legal separation in order to ensure that they have funding moving forward,” Malik told the Beacon Journal. “I wish that the funding would have happened this year.”