City Staff Deserves Credit For Sorting Out CDBG Mess

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As more details emerge about conflicts of interest surrounding the City and CDBG funds, the more it has become increasingly clear that staff, and City Attorney Sara Sexe in particular, have done an admirable job of sorting out a messy situation. As Gregg Smith noted, Paris Gibson Square, as an organization, has every right to raise questions about an alleged conflict on the CDC in that way that it did (via Executive Director Tracy Houck, and on PGS letterhead). Meanwhile, it is also clear that Houck, both through City emails and at the March 20 work session meeting, and in her capacity as a City Commissioner, participated in discussions concerning CDBG funding.

City Attorney Sexe even-handedly addressed both of these issues when she hand delivered a letter to Houck on March 20.

One commenter on the E-City Beat Facebook page took a personal swipe at Sexe (while also praising City Commissioner Fred Burow). Such attacks are unfair. Sexe acted thoughtfully, fairly, and in the best interests of the City. The efforts of Sexe and Burow were not leveled in opposition to the other. Both Sexe and Burow proactively addressed conflicts of interest; they both deserve praise.

Moreover, the totality of a recent records request (thanks, Ron Gessaman) reveals dozens of emails zipping back and forth between staffers in the Planning and Community Development department — all working considerable hours to meticulously and dispassionately administer CDBG monies. P&CD Director Craig Raymond and the City’s CDBG Coordinator, Maria Porter, are honest, hard-working professionals who are simply trying their best to comply with the substantial CDBG guidelines enumerated by HUD, not pick and choose winners and losers.

It is easy for the public to be frustrated by this process, but no one should find fault with City staff. They’re the ones ensuring that everyone plays by the rules.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s not clear at all that Paris Gibson square had “every right to raise questions about an alleged conflict on the CDC in the way that it did”.

    To the contrary, it is quite clear that the alleged conflict of interest on the CDC was raised by Houck only AFTER a series of intra-city emails available only to city commissioners and CDBG staff and department personnel revealed CDC scoring details, funding recommendations and other information.

    This “insider information” which included the fact that PGS was not recommended for funding was made available to Houck in her dual conflicting roles as Director of PGS and city commissioner, but NOT to other CDBG funding applicants at the time.

    Furthermore, ANY involvement by Houck in the matter appears to be in direct violation of explicit HUD rules. Add to that the vague and unsubstantiated claims of a supposed conflict by a CDC member and it becomes obvious that there was nothing appropriate at all about the way PGS and Houck raised the issue.

    I sincerely hope that E-City Beat will do more and better due diligence, investigation, and reporting on this issue. We need the unvarnished truth, not more glossy excuses from local media sources.

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