In an October 20, 2019 comment section posted on a public Facebook page, Great Falls city commissioner Tracy Houck accused E-City Beat of publishing untrue “stuff” about her involvement in the City’s recent Community Development Block Grant, CDBG, funding debacle.
“I read the stuff a local blog writes about me and it’s not true.”
Though she doesn’t name E-City Beat she is obviously referring to this blog.
So as the editor and publisher of E-City Beat I’m going to set the record straight here – neither this publication nor any of our contributing writers have ever lied about the CDBG issue or Houck’s involvement.
We have published the documented facts which in turn have exposed Houck’s, and others, damaging dishonesty and actions. Writers publishing on this blog about the CDBG issue and Houcks involvement include:
Gregg Smith, local attorney – https://ecitybeat.com/cdbg-records/
Jeni Dodd, contributing writer – https://ecitybeat.com/4477-2/
Phil Faccenda, editor/publisher – https://ecitybeat.com/fred-burow-citys-cdbg-funding-think-black-eye-on-us/
The list also includes several others writing for this and other local news outlets. A simple Google search will reveal that Houck’s conflict of interest involving CDBG funding is widely known and has been reported on by several sources.
Houck Heroically Exposes Corruption In Great Falls?
Commissioner Houck’s several claims in the comment thread that she was actually the one who “exposed the flawed system” in order to make it better and that “building stronger systems” was her intention all along are patently absurd and belie the relevant documents and facts.
Her spin is akin to a bank robber telling the judge that the only reason he robbed that bank was in order to expose flaws in the security system.
Here are the basic facts concerning the origins of the CDBG issue being referred to here:
- The Community Development Council (CDC) voted to allocate CDBG taxpayer funds to various local projects/organizations.
- Tracy Houck, at the time a city commissioner and Executive Director of Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art simultaneously, saw the scoring and that her employer, PGS, did not receive the $27,927 they requested.
- Houck then wrote a letter to the City Director of Planning and Community Development on PGS letterhead alleging that the CDC Chair had a vendetta against PGS and therefore the whole process needed to be redone.
- Houck got her do-over and PGS was subsequently recommended to receive the $27,927 grant.
Her goal was to get a do-over so that the organization which issued her paycheck, and her daughters paycheck at the time, would receive a big chunk of taxpayer money, and she used her position as a city commissioner to accomplish that goal.
Here is the first page of a letter from City Attorney Sara Sexe (I encourage readers to view the letter in it’s entirety) which had to be hand delivered to Houck stating that her allegation of a “potential conflict” also raises conflict concerns for Houck.
Those conflicts for Houck turned out to be far more serious and damaging to Great Falls than her alleged accusations against the CDC Chair.
HUD Steps In
Her statement that “Mine did not” receive funding, meaning her employer, PGS, is a misleading half-truth because although PGS didn’t ultimately receive the $27,927, it was not for lack of trying on Houck’s part.
She got what she intended when the CDC reconvened, reversed their original decision and approved funding for PGS based on her complaint. The only reason PGS did not eventually receive the money was because the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development had to intervene due to Houck’s, and other’s, blatant conflicts of interest in distributing the funds.
“Originally, the CDC did not fund the proposed project at PGS, but after the chair recused herself and the matter was reconsidered, PGS was recommended to receive $27,927…
…But in reconsidering the public facility applications, several other organizations were also recommended for funding that had previously been denied. Quality of Life Concepts was initially denied but in the new recommendations was slated for $20,877. The YWCA’s recommended allocation went up slightly. But that also meant funding for other applications went down. The Center for Mental Health was reduced from $20,000 to $10,000 and funding for the city Public Works department for a grant program providing assistance to low income homeowners to remove and replace hazardous sidewalks within the city limits and replacement of existing intersections with ADA accessible ramps was reduced from $65,297 to $29,177.” – (Jenn Rowell – The Electric, https://theelectricgf.com/2017/05/16/conflict-of-interest-concerns-plague-this-years-cdbg-allocation-decisions/)
The February 20, 2018 letter from HUD to the City of Great Falls is very clear about their rules concerning “inside information”. Commissioner Houck is one of the “14 individuals” referenced here. I encourage everyone to read the entire letter.
“With regard to the City of Great Falls, we consider any member of the City’s Commission or Community Development Council to be in a decision-making position and able to gain “inside information” on the CDBG funding process. The City’s letter dated December 20, 2017 identified 14 individuals who participated in the Commission or Council between 2012 and 2017, and who would also be identified as persons covered by Section 570.611(c). In total, $522,252.00 was awarded by the Commission and Council between 2012 and 2017 to entities from which the 14 members noted above, or those with whom they have business or immediate family ties, obtained a financial interest or benefit.” (emphasis added)
No one on this blog has been making up “stuff” about Houck. Anyone who is actually interested in the truth, cares to take a closer look at the many facts and documents, and applies common sense will indeed conclude that Tracy Houck’s expostulation is the only “stuff” being made up.