Ex-bikies quit prisoner help group after bitter row
A bitter split has torn apart a new organisation set up to help ex-prisoners, with two former Finks bikies quitting to go solo amid allegations of poor leadership and a dispute about an SA government contract.
Arcofyre is run by chief executive Kirby Brownlow, a former soldier and convicted armed robber, and aims to help cut high rates of recidivism - when former prisoners commit further crimes and return to jail.
Other key Arcofyre members included former Fink and Mongol bikie brothers Matt and Tyson Ward, and Henry Keogh who was convicted of murdering his fiancee but released after 20 years in 2014 on appeal and not retried.
Those three have quit, with Matt Ward accusing Mr Brownlow of being rude to staff and overly-focused on money - claims Mr Brownlow rejected.
"I don't know what's gone on in his head," said Mr Ward, a former president of the Mongols in Adelaide who with his brother says he wants to help others as redemption for his crimes.
"We thought he was established and sincere and we liked the idea of what he was doing.
His biggest problem is that he underestimates the people around him."
Mr Ward said he and his brother had risked their lives by quitting the Mongols and remained committed to helping former prisoners and keeping young people out of bikie gangs, as reported in SAWeekend last year.
The pair now plan to set up their own organisation, Ward Brothers, assisted by SA prisoner support group Empathy not Sympathy.
Mr Keogh, who has also quit, said he liked Mr Brownlow but claimed he had treated subcontractors and volunteers poorly.
"You need consistency and you need a good considered and measured approach and that wasn't happening," he said.
Mr Brownlow denied that he had managed things badly but said there were "irreconcilable differences" with the Ward brothers. He said Tyson had been disrespectful.
"They're just being very bitter," he said. "They wanted control over parts of the business they weren't entitled to."
Mr Brownlow said he was now working as an independent contractor.
He said Mr Ward had spoken to a state government social worker who had then suspended a contract with Arcofyre to help a young homeless person. The state government has been contacted for a response.
Mr Brownlow said he was still helping that person regardless.
He also denied he was focused on money, and defended proposing to charge $1000 to advocate for a client now in jail.
"They think that's an extortionate rate," he said of the Wards.
"But that thousand dollars is for advocacy for that inmate for 12 months - it is around … ($20) a week. They have squandered a great opportunity."
He said he had not been able to speak with Mr Keogh, who Mr Brownlow said had raised his management style and the government contract in his resignation letter.
Bur Mr Brownlow said he would stick with his work.
"I'm not going to turn my back on Adelaide's most vulnerable over money or power or whatever."
Originally published as Ex-bikies quit prisoner help group after bitter row