No accounting no-accounts

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Oct 22, 2013

The city of Sandusky finally got itself reinstated in the federal Community Housing Investment Program, after spending three years in the penalty box for the theft and pilfering of previous grant funds designed to improve the housing stock in the city.

That prior theft and direct plunder totaled more than $1 million and the losses top an estimated $3 million, or more, when everything is factored into the equation. 

It's only an estimate, however, because city officials never did add up the losses, tally the totals or made good bringing anyone to justice for the losses. 

It might very well represent the largest heist from taxpayers' pockets in the history of the county, and there likely won't ever be a loss total, a resolution or any criminal trial. Taxpayers just kissed that money good-bye and nobody defended them against the loss. 

That's bad enough, but when a city commissioner pats the city on the back now that the funding's been reinstated, program, that's seems insulting. 

"Kudos to (staff) on fighting to get this program back," city commissioner Pervis Brown said last week during a commission meeting.  

And more than insulting, it's ignoring what went wrong and risking failure again. What will the city do to safeguard taxpayers from another run at the city treasury? What will the city do differently to assure the funding is not plundered and squandered again?

The CHIP housing program is likely to be a prime target again, since whoever made off with the booty the last time made a clean getaway. 

Those are the questions commissioners should ask and get answered. Commissioner Brown should just skip the meaningless platitudes.

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Comments

Darkhorse

Whenever the case is under investigation, it closes the door to any public records availability. The case was a total bookkeeping mess. My guess is that we will never know what transpired.As far as the insurance company goes, the city cut ties with the old insurance company and the claim has gotten so old we may never get any money from the insurance company. How can you collect money from the insurance company when it was your own negligence because the city was not watching over the program. This is why the city goes behind closed doors with the auditors so the public doesn't get to know what really happened. So my question is, how does the city keep receiving awards for accounting?

max77

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2Timothy1-7

Actually it is not too late for the victims to file a Civil RICO case or a federal whistle blowers case. Problem is no local lawyers are competent to file these cases or are so heavily invested in business as usual that they will refuse to file.

Further isn't this failure to prosecute a great question for candidates for Commission, especially Attorney Dennis Murray Jr? Does he support Don Icsman's failure to properly monitor this program and does he believe the scoundrels who got away with this scam should be unaccountable and unpunished?

Also if the Register is serious about this matter it could bring a lot of pressure to bear on Congresswoman Kaptur for assistance with the US Attorney to bring indictments. In other words action for a change instead of talk.

pptrsha

you are so right you don't even know how true that is. try to bring a lawsuit with a local lawyer and see how far you get. my son was held down at kiddee korral? and kicked by other kids in retaliation for kicking another kid. he was black and blue down one side of his body. children services investigated and said the worker admitted it and wouldn't do it again. case closed, I talked to 3 lawyers all said they had ties to this place

2Timothy1-7

Yes, there's the gist of the problem: The public has lost the right to petition the courts for redress of grievances because the Bar and courts are beholden to big money interests. If you try to file yourself as is your right, the Bar will attack you as vexatious. If you are lucky enough to find a lawyer who will take your case on a contingency basis, the Bar will go after that lawyer for being a "threat" to the system.

Julie R.

@pptrsha: When I read your comment, I was aghast. A worker actually held your child down and allowed others kids to kick him in retaliation for kicking another kid ....... and the IDIOT Erie County Children's Services investigated and did NOTHING? When you then said you talked to 3 lawyers ~ who obviously wouldn't take your case ~ using the claim it was because they all had ties to the place, my first thought was ~ why would lawyers have ties to a pre-school? So I checked it out.

The Kiddee Korral was established in 1973 as a family enterprise by a Doris and Harry McGookey, obviously the parents of the Sandusky attorney Dan McGookey and the in-laws of Dan McGookey's Erie County probate court judge wife, Beverly K. McGookey.

Sure doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why the 3 lawyers you talked to said they all had "ties" to the place, right? Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why the worthless Erie County Childrens Services didn't do anything, either.

twosenseworth

It is my understanding that the only way the city could once again qualify for any further CHIP funding was with the stipulation that the program would be administered by some other entity, in this case, the Ohio Regional Development Corporation (ORDC). While the commissioner was heaping admiration on the staff for regaining acceptance into the program, he should also have mentioned that acceptance back into the program came with its own price. The ORDC collects a maximum of $25,000 and in exchange it is expected to fairly administer the remaining funds. The risk of repeated failure on the part of the city has been removed with the understanding that the funding aspect will not be within their grasp. The city gets the money, but someone else decides how it is spent.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks twosenseworth. That's interesting information. SR reporter Andy Ouriel asked city officials how the program might have been changed or adjusted to avoid a repeat of the problems, but I don't think he received a response that reflects the information you provided. It's likely Andy will contact ORDC to confirm what you have stated. Thanks for commenting. 

twosenseworth

I attended a public hearing which involved the subject of the CHIP program, especially after the city had (in my opinion) exposed itself to an unnecessary financial liability with its failure to properly monitor the program. The public hearing facilitator, Beth Snyder, made it very clear that the city could once again qualify for funding with the understanding that the administration of the funds would be managed by ORDC. When Ordinance 13-105 recently passed, the language indicates that the city has entered into an agreement with the ORDC for professional services related to the administration of the city's CHIP.

donutshopguy

It's sad to say but this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to misappropriation of federal, state and local funds.

This blatant theft of our tax dollars is so common place that no one on the federal, state or local level gives a rats a$$. The taxpaying public has become so jaded that they don't care.

Our country is in such sad shape.

SamAdams

From the administrators of the funds to the shady contractors authorized to do work that wasn't done, people are getting away with real criminal acts here. And with no investigation, they're going to continue to reap the benefits of their incompetence and outright theft while the rest of us have to a) pay the freight, and b) live with that kind of risk from the same people in the future.

Congratulations on fighting back? FIGHTING BACK?!? Nope. This wasn't "fighting back." It was covering your a$$ at its best. Shame on everybody from the top on down. The program and funds should have been monitored, and clearly weren't. The expenditures should involve accountability, and obviously don't. Seems it might be worth the $25,000 just to ensure that the rest of the money goes where it's supposed to go!

Nemesis

So what, Sam? So money went to benefit those who didn't earn it - wasn't that the intent of the program in the first place? It just went to benefit a different group of people who didn't earn it than was intended. Before it could be taken by the contractors, it had to first be taken by the government from those who actually earned it.

If the government had left those earners alone they could have given the money to a charity that helps needy people fix their homes, and if that charity had handled it as foolishly as this program did, they could stop contributing to it, thus creating an incentive not to let something like that happen. Instead, they have no choice but to keep "contributing" or go to jail. Of course the program was carelessly administered - there was, and continues to be, no incentive to do otherwise.

SamAdams

I can't argue with any of the points that you're making. I agree with you! That being said, this program existed when the money was misspent and, like it or not, the program exists now. The money has already been effectively stolen from us (and at gunpoint -- just TRY not paying your taxes sometime!), and it just adds insult to injury when those misgotten gains are wasted.

Do I support eliminating programs like this? Absolutely! But that in no way excuses criminal acts committed prior to a program's elimination, nor should it in any way preclude appropriate punishment.

Nemesis

I hear you, but three things dull that outrage.

-The conduct in question is simply a rational response to the conditions created by the government, just like the Fed's policies created incentives for bankers to turn the lending business into a giant casino.

-Those who ended up with the money probably have paid more in taxes than those for whom it was intended.

-This provides yet another data point about why the government shouldn't be in the charity business.

Simple Enough II

Why are taxpayer dollars fixing up someones home?

starryeyes83

Why are taxpayer dollars going towards someone who chooses to have 15 or 16 kids, they can't support?

Why are taxpayer dollars going towards foreigners to open a new business here?

Why did taxpayer dollars go towards ( or still is going towards) building a bridge to nowhere?

Lots of "why" questions, huh?

Nemesis

The validity of your questions in no way diminishes the validity of the one to which you are responding.

YoMamma

Good question!

pptrsha

so does this mean I can have some money back at tax time? I need a new garage

Darkhorse

Were the state auditors asleep when all this was going on? The books are audited every year. How is it the auditors did not catch this?

2Timothy1-7

The audit by the State does not look "behind the documents" to ensure there is support for the expenditures or to assure there is compliance with contract or grant specs. It's a basic audit to make sure everything balances.

However, there was nothing to stop and still nothing to stop the City Commission from requesting the Auditor of State to conduct a special audit of the program. Of course the special audit must be requested and the City Law Director, (who has everything to lose in a special audit because it will expose his obvious lack of oversight of the program and possible collusion with the scammers) will do everything to continue to mislead and misrepresent City Commission.

Under a special audit the State Auditor could issue findings for recovery and act as special prosecutor in any criminal case or refer the matter to the AG for criminal prosecution in view of the fact that the City Law Director and County Prosecutor appear to have conflicts of interest.

Centauri

"Of course the special audit must be requested and the City Law Director, (who has everything to lose in a special audit because it will expose his obvious lack of oversight of the program and possible collusion with the scammers) will do everything to continue to mislead and misrepresent City Commission."

The city law director would hire a private law firm as in past investigations. Murman. Sandusky's law director should be fired. Why pay him a six figure salary to do nothing and farm out legal work to private law firms?

Centauri

"The CHIP housing program is likely to be a prime target again, since whoever made off with the booty the last time made a clean getaway."

Of course it will be a prime target again. Nothing will change in corrupt Erie County, Ohio until the citizens wake up and demand accountability. I have posted plenty of links in the past. Where is the outrage from the citizens? Silent like a bunch of sheeple as usual. Money meant for poor people is taken by the rich people and except for a few citizens, most don't care.

The prior "investigations" of the CHIP scandal was nothing but a dog and pony show. Investigations by private law firms, Ohio and the federal government dragged their feet. The private law firms love Sandusky, Ohio. More money for them to provide desired results for the powers that be. Sandusky, Ohio deserves to be a declining city. Except for a few, the citizens don't give a rat's a$$.

Centauri

I tried to post some links to previous Sandusky Register news stories about the CHIP scandal but the links do not work. I keep getting the message "The page you requested does not exist." The powers that be want people to forget what happened in the past. My links would refresh the memories of the people. Most people don't care and will not click on the links. They are more interested in Justin Bieber and sports.

T. A. Schwanger

No

Nemesis

Context is often helpful, our monosyllabic friend.