Yesterday I'm out running errands and have the radio tuned into 1480 WSAR, listening to Keri Rodrigues when I hear her mention that the City of Fall River is in hot water with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It seems that the city has been using Community Development Block Grant funds, intended for community development programs, to pay for staff in the Mayor's Office.
Now the first I heard of any of this was back in January when mayoral aide, Eric Poulin, decided to run for mayor and during the controversy that followed he stated that his postion was funded through CD Rec. funds.
It never occurred to me that this might be improper or outside the scope of which these funds were intended for.
So it turns out that after the Lambert administration admitted to the media that members of the staff were given duties that were not within the intentions of the grants, HUD decided to launch a compliance review. The HUD review included inquiries into 6-8 members of the Mayor's office including secretaries, receptionists, and press liasons.
In fact it appears that only 2 members of the Mayor's staff were actually being paid by funds from the city budget and HUD is working with the city to recoup the costs of those salaries improperly paid for through the Block Grants.
Now, when I heard this last night I knew it was something I wanted to blog about, but I also knew I wouldn't have the time to get a post together. Amazingly as I type this now 24 hrs. later, there has been no statement from the Mayor's office, hardly any comment from our City Council and no coverage from the Herald News.
I'm astonished. I thought for sure the Mayor's office would issue a statement that would at least clear up some of the questions and maybe minimize the impact. I expected the Herald News to report just how long this has been going on and to report the city's position. I thought there would be some reaction.
Lefty's View: Unless someone can explain why the city thought it was okay to use Block Grant funds to staff the Mayor's office there is a huge cause for concern here. Otherwise I'm looking at the triple edged sword. 1.) We used government grant funds to pay for staff and deprived the city of the services it was intended for. 2.) In misusing these funds we are now faced with having to pay them back at a time when we can least afford to. 3.) In using these funds in this manner, without a suitable explanation, we now have another reason to doubt the integrity of our local government. Depressing.
**Because I was running errands yesterday and couldn't listen to the entire show I had some assistance getting my facts together for this post. The person who helped me knows who he or she is and I just wanted to say thank your for you help.