The Grant Polemics Continue

This post is in response to a rumor that’s spread throughout some circle(s) in the Village as fact. I’d like to add some perspective to the rumor and appeal to the common sense of those that initiated or are spreading the rumor and those that have chosen to believe it.

The Rumor

I don’t know how each person frames the statement as it travels from ear to ear but, here’s the gist as supplied by Saxton-Jones to Robin, “You screwed three grant applications with your accusations and lies.”

The Response

If someone has said this to you, re-evaluate the character of that person, at the very least assess their intelligence and carefully consider the value of any information they have forthcoming.

Saxton may or may not return to “splain” exactly what was meant by the statement so I’m going to take a leap and assume that he/she maybe talking predominantly about the two Rental Rehabilitation Grants followed by one of the Facade Grants applied for by Guetschow/Royal.

By this logic it would mean one citizen complaint can actually determine a decision brought before a whole governmental agency (MSHDA) that it’s set up to make. You’d also have to ignore the fact that this agency in 2008 had $3.6 billion in assets, 341 employees and operating revenues of $565 million. You might want to also overlook the fact they have all their rules and regulations for eligibility squarely in place, not to mention the legal teams that wrote and probably (hopefully) review their regulations and operating procedures.

By this rumor logic, I have a great deal more power than anyone (including myself) has given me credit for. I could single-handedly prevent Michigan from going bankrupt – prepare for some major budget cuts.

So who’s kidding who? Whoever started the rumor, knows perfectly well that the grants were denied because the applicants were ineligible and someone is using me as a scapegoat while they scrape egg off their face. A phone call could have determined eligibility requirements (probably it did). They were told they were ineligible before they took it to the Commissioner’s office, otherwise the MSHDA employee wouldn’t have recommended trying the County route. Our tax dollars went towards hiring a third-party administrator to fill out and file the application (big bucks on this one). Hours of time that should have been used running the Village by Wonacott and Guetschow. Hours of time from the County Commissioners and expenses paid to make those trips etc.

Still left to discuss is the Facade grant for Royal Expressions that was approved, waiting for the final inspection. After the RRG’s were denied, Debbie Royal retracted her application. After putting those three grant “screwing rumors to bed, you might think I could stop talking about them. Well, I’ve actually got more to say in the next post; we’re going to be doing a little deeper analysis.

Want more info about the Michigan State Housing Development Authority? Here is a snippet of an article that reiterates some concerns I’ve had with MSHDA and brings attention to trouble that was brewing, click the link to read more.

MSHDA: Providing Housing for the Poor or for the Cool?
By James M. Hohman | July 5, 2007
Government agencies that were created to accomplish lofty civil objectives often end up functioning as little more than political machines. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority, for example, was established to increase the supply of affordable housing for low-income Michigan residents. Today the agency is engaged in activities well beyond its scope and mission. MSHDA needs to be reformed and some of its functions privatized to realign the agency with its stated objectives.

But wait, there’s more! Due to the fact few people select the links to information or more information I provide, I decided to copy and paste the whole article so you can’t miss it:

Last Updated: January 12. 2011 2:32PM.

Audit finds state housing agency risked tenants’ safety renting to violent felons
Paul Egan / Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing — The state’s housing agency for low-income people failed to properly screen its tenants and provided public support to convicted sex offenders, drug dealers, murderers and hundreds of other violent criminals, according to a new state audit.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority also provided thousands of dollars in rent for tenants locked up in prison — in one case for more than six years — and paid more than $100,000 in rent for tenants who had died, the report by Auditor General Thomas McTavish said.

The audit, which covered July 2004 through March 2008 and was released Friday, also found: The agency, until it changed its selection method in 2007, did not give funding preference to housing projects best targeted for low-income people, as required by federal law, and proposals that received the worst scores in terms of helping the poor were more likely to be funded than proposals that scored the best.

It didn’t collect “critical information” about tenants, and more than half its tenant files lacked a complete name, Social Security number or date of birth.

The agency did not properly enforce conflict of interest rules and senior MSHDA officials approved funding for a nonprofit agency for which they eventually went to work.

In response to the 68-page report, the housing agency said it agreed with some of the auditor general’s concerns and has made changes, but it pushed back at other recommendations.

The agency said it would be too costly or not possible for owners of low-income housing projects to do the type of criminal background checks the auditor general says are required. Even if the background checks were completed, those landlords have the discretion to “admit a tenant with a criminal history, even a violent criminal history,” as long as the landlords are satisfied there is no ongoing criminal activity and other tenants are safe, MSHDA said.

But McTavish said the agency had no standards for background screening and “the severity of criminal histories” the auditors found shows standards are needed to assure the safety of other tenants and protect the agency’s investment in housing projects.

MSHDA, which in 2008 had $3.6 billion in assets, 341 employees and operating revenues of $565 million, is charged with working with public and private partnerships to provide decent and affordable housing for low-and moderate-income people.

Audit turns up convicts
The audit found 42 tenants who were prohibited from receiving housing assistance by federal law, including 27 who were incarcerated at the time they were renting, 10 registered sex offenders and five parole or probation absconders, the report said.

Federal regulations prohibit renting to people with criminal histories for drugs or violence, the report said. The audit found 275 tenants convicted of crimes of violence ranging from murder to child abuse within the previous three years and 127 convicted of drug crimes in the previous three years.

Christopher LaGrand, director of legal affairs for MSHDA, said the numbers are relatively small considering more than 80,000 people live in the publicly assisted units. MSHDA requires property managers to do a background check but does not require any specific method, he said. Property managers normally do credit checks that include certain criminal background information, he said.

Contrary to what the auditor said in his report, the agency does not have access to the FBI National Crime Information Center, LaGrand said. Requiring owners to repeatedly use the Michigan State Police Internet Criminal History Access Tool would be too costly, the agency said in its response to the report.

LaGrand said just because one family member gets locked up, other household members are not put out on the street, and he believes the audit failed to take that into account.

In the report, McTavish said screening tenants was more difficult than it should be because the agency lacked information that owners are required to get from tenants such as a complete name, Social Security number and date of birth. The auditor examined a database of nearly 58,000 tenant records and found 52 percent of them were missing one of those three pieces of information.

LaGrand said the auditor looked at an incomplete database MSHDA was compiling voluntarily and that data is now more complete.

The audit also said the agency failed to adequately screen death records and paid nearly $154,000 in rent for tenants who had died, of which nearly $115,000 was not recovered. The agency paid rent for more than 18 months after the death of one tenant, the report said.

LaGrand said other family members may continue to occupy rental units after the deaths of tenants whose names are on leases, but it’s not clear the instances cited by the auditor general involved prisoners who left behind other family members in the units they leased.

MSHDA defends selection
The report said MSHDA violated federal law by selecting housing development projects at random through a lottery after an initial screening to make sure they met minimum requirements.

As a result, developers who could afford to do so submitted multiple proposals to increase the chance that one of their projects would be chosen, the report said. An analysis found that through the lottery, proposals that scored the best for helping low-income people were actually chosen less frequently than those that scored the worst.

LaGrand said the lottery method, which MSHA introduced in 2005 and abandoned in 2007, is used in other states, and the agency does not believe it violates the law. MSHDA changed to a system based more exclusively on scoring for reasons unrelated to the audit, he said.

The audit also cited concerns over conflict of interest related to former senior managers of MSHDA and the Great Lakes Capital Fund, a private nonprofit entity that is independent of MSHDA but has received $39.9 million in funding from the agency. The fund was created in 1993 to facilitate private investment in rental housing projects and was originally called the Michigan Capital Fund for Housing before expanding into Indiana and other states.

Two senior MSHDA managers who approved funding for a subsidiary of the Great Lakes Capital Fund immediately went to work for the fund when they resigned from the housing authority in 2003 and 2006, respectively, the report said. That’s despite a requirement in the agency’s Code of Ethics for a six-month cooling off period before departing employees get involved with any “development or program” for which they had a decision-making role or direct involvement.

LaGrand said there was no breach of the code because, although the former MSHDA officials went to work for the fund immediately upon leaving the state agency, they had no dealings with anything related to MSHDA during the six-month window.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110112/METRO/101120340/Audit-finds-state-housing-agency-risked-tenants’-safety-renting-to-violent-felons#ixzz1DEsz45bi

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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7 Responses to The Grant Polemics Continue

  1. Sandy Meeks says:

    Robin: Do you have any more recent information that the seeming corruption in MSHDA’s various processes (grant selection, lotteries, tenant selection rules, etc.) have been cleaned up? Questions to “our” MSHDA officials about their being funded by government monies have met w/answers of “no”. That doesn’t quite seem to be the case. Nevertheless, I do very much appreciate those individuals from Lansing that we work with and have been thankful for their teachings and their input. I will not kick them to the curb b/c of the agency that they work for. I’m quite sure that they would not willingly perpetuate any illegal machinations. That having been said, I ask the previous question b/c I do not like the idea of corruption at all, and certainly not in our State Government. We are now in a mode, throughout the country, of getting back to the basics, and there is no better time than right now for this to be investigated. I regularly contact my Congressmen and others if that is appropriate. Please advise. The work of the government works slowly, but there has to be a “start button” somewhere !

    • Robin says:

      Good questions Sandy, the article was most recently updated January 12. 2011, I used to lament how slow government works, until I found out it was by design. The premise was to promote careful thought about regulations and fixes to minimize rash or emotional decisions. MSHDA canned their Director in 2008 (as a result of this investigation) paying him $235, 000.00 to leave his post early and hired Keith Molin; http://domemagazine.com/blogs/molin

      Of course the spotlight on MSHDA is just a snippet of the entire corruption spectrum; MSHDA is not a lone soldier, although they had weighty contributions to our economic demise that blew up the housing bubble. A simple explanation is government agencies force fixes that the market can’t support (otherwise the market would have addressed it) like giving millions an unqualified and unsustainable opportunity to become homeowners causing housing values to be artificially inflated and neglecting the subsequent fallout of millions of defaults. But, they keep going round and round trying to fix the effects of a bad decision without evaluating the initial bad decision. Apart from the fraud, MSHDA has more recently been throwing billions into helping the poor homeowners endangered by a situation that they created.

      Every Congressman and representative of Michigan should be called and emailed whenever we get enlightened or concerned about the way things are being managed or mismanaged, it’s not only appropriate, but it’s our civic duty. We all should be voicing our discontent when things go awry, we should warn when something should be prevented and we should also be thanking them when they support our wishes. After all, this is America…lucky, lucky us!

      I appreciate you feeling appreciative of individuals you’ve learned from in regards to the individuals in Lansing. If individuals are involved in bending the rules for a favored few, I believe that’s fraudulent because we’re supposed to be working off a system that provides equal opportunity. But generally speaking I don’t believe they should be kicked to the curb, they mostly only parrot what they’ve been told and are simply making a living, most are probably just sold what they’re doing is making a difference in the communities they serve; however, the whole organization should be shut down. The whole convoluted purpose of the organization is keeping them viable while they market a need to us and we buy it. They have magnified the problems in Blissfield as things unfold, further dividing the favored and un-favored. It’s unmistakably obvious the Clique is favored by Michigan Main Street and the Clique favors the few high end businesses we have in town and to a lesser degree the businesses that also support those high end businesses. I find it very narrow minded, juvenile and quite disturbing. The most disturbing part is the high end businesses are the ones with deep enough pockets to promote themselves, why should my taxes be selectively promoting them; my taxes are 10% higher to support the DDA/MMS. I’m mandated to support them whether I agree with the stacked deck they’re playing with or not. I believe these entities are corrupting the free market system, this is socialism. Individuals should determine what businesses get their support, not a collective. And certainly not an organization that gives taxpayer money in return for support, kickbacks and back scratching!

      Getting back to basics is indeed the recent push, part of that problem solving agenda is to tackle corruption. The most efficient place to start is to reduce the size of government by dissolving the unnecessary government organizations and entities that leech on the system and our pocketbooks.

      • Robin says:

        Sandy, Here’s some more information regarding your question about MSHDA’s allocation process that was in violation of state and federal law. “According to Michigan state law (Section 18.1462 of the Michigan Compiled Laws and the State of Michigan Financial Management Guide Part VII, Chapter 4, Section 100), the Department of Treasury has 60 days to submit a plan that addresses the audit recommendations to the Office of Internal Audit Services, State Budget Office. In turn, the Office of Internal Audit Services has 30 days to either accept the plan or request the Agency takes further steps to address the issues raised in the audit. It remains to be seen whether any federal or legal action will stem from from the audit findings.” Here’s the rest

  2. Sandy Meeks says:

    Oh, and as for T. Saxton-Jones and/or Saxton-Jones99, do not worry about any rumors spread by that individual; he/she has no credibility AT ALL ! Not worth even one gray hair.

    • Robin says:

      I agree, I think Saxton has thoroughly discredited his/herself. I have heard through the grapevine there are others with the same stinking thinking, Dorothy Steedle made mention of the same rumor in her comment here. I still have another post coming out discussing grants; I’ll lay out my theory about how the RRG’s situation played out.

  3. Logan says:

    Robin, Because it’s now buried in another post, I would like to see the TIF video posted again to explain it will effect our taxes. I don’t know how many people saw it, but I thought it was informative.

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