HUD closed case with city over CDBG conflicts of interest

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has closed its case with the City of Great Falls over conflict of interest issues in the Community Development Block Grant Process.

[READ: HUD’s July letter]

The city notified HUD of issues involving City Commissioner Tracy Houck and Paris Gibson Square, where she is the director, during last year’s grant allocation process.

Conflict of interest concerns plague this year’s CDBG allocation decisions

City sent response letter to HUD on conflict of interest issues, awaiting response

Local residents also called HUD to lodge additional complaints about Houck and Commissioner Bill Bronson since his wife works for NeighborWorks Great Falls, which is typically a CDBG applicant.

That prompted a more thorough review from HUD, which declined funding for Paris Gibson Square and later pulled funding from NWGF, Great Falls Development Authority, Habitat for Humanity and Rural Dynamics, Inc.

More CDBG funding suspended as HUD continues review of city’s process

In a July letter, HUD reviewed its original finding that between 2012 and 2017, both the City Commission and the Community Development Council, which makes recommendations for grant allocations, included members who had existing business or personal relationships with organizations seeking CDBG funds, in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Commissioners approve CDBG grant policies, citizen participation plan

In response to the problems that plagued last year’s grant process, resident complaints and HUD’s investigation, the city developed new policies for the CDBG program, eliminated the Community Development Council, removed the City Commission from the grant allocation decision-making process, requires conflict of interest disclosures from elected and appointed city officials and board members, and create an ethics committee.

Changes to Great Falls CDBG process, public needs hearing on commission agenda

New Great Falls ethics committee members appointed

City staff propose changes to ethics policies, creation of ethics board in response to conflict of interest issues

In response, HUD wrote in its July letter than those changes conform with the federal regulations governing CDBG and that the finding is closed.