The reviewers concluded that Cummins' proposal was poorly crafted and labeled it as "not recommended" for funding. They questioned whether the Victory Outreach had either "the capacity" or "sufficient knowledge" to "undertake a project of this magnitude," according to a DOJ memo.
In the end, Victory Outreach rejected the grant because the group did not believe it was qualified to carry it out.
"Our board decided it was way too big a grant to handle," said Pastor Tony Garcia, Vice President of Special Services for Victory Outreach.
Garcia said that Victory Outreach became involved with Urban Strategies after other faith-based and evangelical organizations said that the consulting firm had been successful in obtaining federal grants that they would not otherwise have won. "They were highly effective in their work for other ministries," he said.
The Victory Outreach grant is one of several awarded by Flores that have come under scrutiny.
Six current and former DOJ officials told ABC News that Flores often set aside their recommendations and federal rules and regulations to award such grants to further Bush administration policies such as supporting faith-based organizations and sexual abstinence, and to reward political allies of the administration.
In the case of the Victory Outreach grant, Steven McFarland, the director of the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, was involved with Cummins' firm being considered for federal grants, internal DOJ emails show.
On March 16, 2007, McFarland emailed Flores' Chief of Staff, Michele DeKonty, to encourage her to meet with Cummins, saying that he had just had a meeting with Cummins that morning. In the email he "recommended that [Cummins] contact [DeKonty] regarding Victory Outreach, a faith-based ministry with 40 years of work among gang members." McFarland also pointed out that Cummins was formerly with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, adding "I know you will find her a great asset to [your] work."
An OJJDP official said that McFarland often encouraged the department to fund faith-based programs. "McFarland has his fingers in a lot of what gets funded. The program officers see him as the voice of the White House as communicated from Main Justice," the DOJ employee told ABC News.
Erik Ablin, a DOJ spokesman said on behalf of McFarland that "the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives provides assistance to faith - and community-based organizations in identifying funding opportunities within the Federal government for which they are eligible to apply. The Task Force does not make the decisions about which groups are funded," he said.
Cummins told ABC News she did not recall meeting McFarland at all during the time she was attempting to obtain the OJJDP grant, and was unaware that McFarland had played any role in assisting her to obtain it.
At a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform probing Flores' grant awarding policies, Flores asserted that he had broad discretion to overrule his career staff's recommendations as to which grants should be funded: "While some may disagree with my decisions they were made in accordance with the law, within department rules, and in good faith to address the needs of our children."