Housing investigation legal bill at $60,000 and counting

SANDUSKY The worst may be yet to come for those involved with the city's Community Housing Improveme
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

The worst may be yet to come for those involved with the city's Community Housing Improvement Program.

Those were the words of city law director Don Icsman as he explained that the state and federal government took all of the city case files for examination.

When commissioner Dan Kaman asked for a "ballpark figure" as to what the housing investigation cost the city, finance director Ed Widman replied it was in the range of $60,000 for three outside legal consultants, including Murman and Associates of Lakewood.

"We have to be more mindful of the taxpayers' dollars," commissioner Dave Waddington said. "They cannot afford to be involved in games like this."

The Ohio Department of Development monitoring reports for program years 2004, 2005 and 2006 chronicle nearly 50 homes that were rehabilitated poorly or not at all using misspent and mismanaged taxpayer money.

"Those reports are sickening," commission president Dennis Murray Jr. said.

Murray said the fraud and theft committed in the program were unforgivable.

"We should go after these people," commission vice president Craig Stahl said.

Stahl expressed frustration over the fact that no contact addresses or phone numbers are available for many of the contractors utilized by the program.

"It's just flat-out disgusting," Stahl said.

City manager Matt Kline said the legislation approved by commissioners at Monday night's meeting was an important step to rectify the situation. Commissioners voted unanimously to contract with the Ohio Regional Development Corporation, a non-profit group recommended by the state to help clean up the city's housing mess.

The minimum administrative fee to be paid to the corporation will be $30,000, which is $10,000 for each grant year 2004-2006.

Murray said that the scandalous state of the department has left the city with a lot to clean up.

Forty-six projects were outlined in the state monitoring report as needing to be immediately addressed by the city.

Kline said the organization has not yet given him a timeline for the process.

The cost of all the reparations and rehabilitation work will certainly top six figures, he said. The cost will be submitted to the city's insurance. The city will also consider lawsuits against the contractors involved with the program.

When the investigation was initially launched in November 2007, the three city program employees were placed on paid administrative leave.

Rehabilitation specialist Mark Warren was fired when he failed to appear at his scheduled disciplinary hearing with Kline. Program administrator Mary Bird resigned before Kline issued his disciplinary decision. Former Department of Development program coordinator Kaye Conway returned to work last Tuesday after a 15-day unpaid suspension.