City’s Community Housing Improvement Program under scrutiny by state of Ohio

SANDUSKY Sloppy paperwork, incomplete projects andmismanaged funds. On Tuesday, the city received a
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Sloppy paperwork, incomplete projects andmismanaged funds.

On Tuesday, the city received a grim report from the Ohio Department of Development Office of Housing and Community Partnerships.

In November 2007, three employees from the city development department, division of housing and neighborhood development were placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of the third-party investigation because of a citizen complaint.

The city contracted Mike Murman and Associates to conduct an investigation.

The state department of development also took notice and conducted an investigation into the city’s Community Housing Improvement Program throughout January and February.

The city’s program was found to be non-compliant with environmental review requirements, local policy regarding client complaints, uniform administrative practices regarding contractor bids, record-keeping requirements and grant agreement and program guidelines.

The city has 30 days to provide the state with its plan to meet all of the requirements outlined in the state report. City manager Matt Kline declined comment Tuesday.

The state’s findings

The investigators found that residential rehabilitation standards had not been met on several projects; some of the deficiencies pose serious health and safety issues, the report stated.

“Corrections will have to be made for items that have already been paid for by having the original contractor return to complete the work, or by correcting the deficiencies using funds from another source,” the report stated. “This is a serious finding that will be considered in the rating of future applications for funding.”

Investigators found a number of cases in which contractors were paid for work that was not completed or completed unsatisfactorily.

“It is the community’s responsibility to get these items fixed, and to figure out how to pay for these ineligible costs,” the report stated. “In some cases, funds will need to be returned to the State of Ohio.”

According to the report, the amount of funds dispersed on projects did not always match the contract amounts.

In one case, a contractor is still owed money for project on a home owned by a person who died in 2006.

In many cases, items were listed as paid but the work was not completed, and change orders deleting those specific items from the scope of work could not be found. Some contracts had no prices listed for specific line items.

The documentation issues continued. Many documents in the homeowners’ files were found to be nonstandard, meaning there were copies of documents when there should have been originals, some documents were completed in pencil, bids were incomplete and the dates on documents did not coincide chronologically.

“This raises questions about the legitimacy of these documents,” the report stated.

“Contracts were often not awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, and items provided were sometimes not consistent with the items listed in the contract,” according to the report.

In some cases the client was not offered a selection of contractors at all, but rather the city selected one for them.

• Constructing confusion

“The bid specifications for the work to be completed were very similar from house to house and seemed in some cases to replace items even when they did not need it, while at the same time ignoring items that really needed to be addressed,” the report stated.

The report said a recurring theme in the houses was the replacement of a water heater.

In one home, a water heater was replaced, but the old water heater was left in the basement. The old water heater was stamped ‘2005’ and appeared to be in good condition, according to the state report.

In another home cabinets costing $5,000 were installed. Investigators noted that these “extremely expensive” cabinets would not normally be installed in that type of project.

At yet another home, seven windows were specified to be replaced although they appeared to be in good condition. Three of the seven windows were installed, but a change order could not be found documenting that the additional four windows had been deleted from the scope of work. There was no reduction in the original contract amount to account for those windows, the investigators noted.

More than once, work was done on homes without permits from the city building department and without the required city inspection.

“In some cases there appeared to be a general disregard for client concerns,” according to the report.