The director of the only nonprofit seeking to provide social services as part of Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative has been arrested on drug and alcohol charges.
Richard K. Bennett, 48, was discovered by Chattanooga police officers with a woman in a minivan in East Lake Park with his pants unzipped, open containers of alcohol, a small baggy of marijuana and a container on his keychain containing a pill and a half of hydrocodone.
The officers who found him in the southeast corner of the park had been told to look for a blue or silver minivan being driven erratically in the area.
The woman in the minivan told officers that she was meeting Bennett because he owed her money. Bennett's story was that he was meeting with the woman to get information for the VRI, an attempt to stop violence by getting gang members jobs and social services.
Bennett's nonprofit organization, A Better Tomorrow, has been active in Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's VRI from the beginning. It was the only nonprofit group to respond to the city's request for proposals to provide social services for those taking part in the VRI.
Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Mayor Berke's office, said in a statement Saturday that the mayor's office "will not tolerate criminal activity" from anyone in the community, whether associated with one of the city's initiatives or not.
"We are extremely disappointed in Mr. Bennett's actions and have halted his involvement with Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative," Stone said in the e-mailed statement.
Read more in Sunday's Times Free Press.