City retains independent accountant for CDBG review
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department told the City of Great Falls last month that it was declining funds for the Community Development Block Grant for Paris Gibson Square and was reviewing funds from the last three years for NeighborWorks Great Falls.
The HUD decision came after months of controversy regarding conflicts of interest throughout the city’s grant process this year.
City Manager Greg Doyon told commissioner during Tuesday’s meeting that NWGF was providing all necessary paperwork, but that the city has retained an independent accountant to review the documents.
That accounting firm is Anderson ZurMuehlen & Co., P.C., which is currently under contract to conduct annual audits for the city.
Doyon told The Electric that the accountant would provide an independent, third-party review that would be part of the report to HUD and be clear of any real or perceived conflicts of interest.
Doyon said NWGF funding structures are different from the city’s, making the independent accountant necessary to properly inspect the documents.
Much of the controversy centered around Commissioner Tracy Houck’s involvement in the process as she’s also the executive director of PGS.
But there were also citizen complaints regarding Commissioner Bill Bronson since his wife works at NeighborWorks Great Falls, City Attorney Sara Sexe requested that Bronson outline in writing why he believed he didn’t have a conflict of interest in the matter and that memo was provided to HUD.
At that point, Doyon said that HUD had still not given city staff any indication that they had concerns with the city’s approach in correcting the issue and staff hearing nothing from HUD until mid-October.
During a call with the Denver office in October, Doyon said HUD indicated they had continued to get complaints about this year’s process and determined that PGS was ineligible for CDBG funding.
That means the $27,927 allocated for PGS will now go back to the city for potential allocation to other CDBG applicants.
HUD also advised city staff to review CDBG funding for NWGF for the last three years to see if there was any conflict in those decisions.
Staff has been recommending for months that the city revamp it’s CDBG process and on Nov. 21, they’ll bring a proposal to the commission during a work session.
The updates to Title 2 of the city code concerning ethics policies and creating an ethics committee are also part of the city’s efforts to correct the problem.