CLEVELAND, OH – The $12 million to $37 million Shaker Square cash give-away outgoing Mayor Frank Jackson and Council President Kevin Kelley’s asked council to support as a tautological emergency ordinance is exactly the type of “carryover” contract that causes problems for new mayors entering office behind a mayor whose performance they really don’t know. Council is holding off on considering the ordinance until after January 3, 2022 and it will be Mayor-elect Justin Bibb’s “mayor’s” signature on the authorizing documents should it pass. Blaine Griffin will sign the ordinance as council’s president.
The mayor’s signature on a document affirms that all federal, state and local laws have been obeyed; and that he has fulfilled his R.C. 733.34 duties to “supervise the conduct” of all the city’s officers of the municipal corporation to discharge only their lawful duties during its enactment. Neither Bibb nor anyone on his 75-member transition team possesses the level of statutory knowledge to know if Jackson for the past year has ensured that all federal, state and local laws were obeyed by the municipal workers interacting with Neighborhood Progress Inc. and Burten Bell Carr. There’s “tip of the iceberg” June 24, 2021 correspondence to the United States Department of Justice below which says they didn’t.
Mayor-elect Bibb can tweet all he wants about supporting the initial $12 million cash award to a non-profit whose board meetings and records are not open to the public. But after he’s administered an oath to discharge the duties of the mayor’s office on January 3, 2022, signing a document that delivers federal funds to non-profit entities whose meetings and records are publicly-closed violates Bibb’s oath of office.
His tweet implies that Bibb’s willing to ignore or doesn’t know the mayor’s duty to enforce the federal, state and local laws referenced within the letter above. For those building his “file” Bibb’s tweet is now in it along with the June 24, 2021 letter. Both Bibb and Griffin should slow down and not act so “confidently” about the inaccurate, distorted and maliciously wrong information they’re receiving from the Jackson administration, Kelley and the officials and associates of the non-profits. If they’re smart they’ll forget the smiley-faced ass kissers and “read.”
Between 2010 and 2013, retired HUD Director of Planning & Development Jorgelle Lawson presided over three audits of Cleveland’s HOME program. Each audit concluded that federal laws, regulations and Office of Management & Budget circulars were being violated. The Jackson administration lacked the “internal controls” to oversee the program and the management has never improved as evidenced by the June 24, 2021 letter to the United States Department of Justice.
A year after HUD’s last of three HOME program audits identified annually-uncorrected federal law violations, FBI agents in 2014 secretly made contact with city officials and contractors associated with the Jackson administration’s now documented misuse of federal funds. Lawson had warned the mayor and Kelley to get their administrative and legislative shit together in three successive audits of the late Darryl Rush’s federal funds mismanagement. It was too late.
As East Cleveland’s former Mayor between January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2009, and twice its Director of Community Development, I worked directly with Lawson and her Columbus and Cleveland team of HUD officials. I was the only Ohio mayor attending her Columbus training meetings. Lawson’s audits were thorough and well-cited with the federal laws, regulations and OMB circulars that were being violated. Her team and I got along well.
The remedy to a mayor learning that his or her subordinates disobeyed a federal law, regulation or policy is to read the federal laws, regulations and circulars they violated. The mayor has to meet with the department head and staff, together with the director of law, and review each and every violated law with them. The “mayor” has to lead the city’s request to HUD, if confused, for “technical assistance.” That’s not what Jackson did.
Jackson played musical chairs and did no more than replace Rush with now convicted and “attempted” pedophile Michael Cosgrove. Cosgrove abruptly left the Jackson administration to join Chris Warren’s Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland as the director a month before the federal city hall raid. Cosgrove was replaced with Indian alien Tania Menesse.
Menesse is now leading Neighborhood Progress Inc’s attempt to secure $12 million in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds from Cleveland to purchase parcels of Shaker Square properties appraised at $5.6 million. Instead of testifying against former Councilman Kenneth Johnson and Garnell Jamison, she should have been questioned about her own federal law violations following Cosgrove’s city of Cleveland flight from public office. Four years after the third of three HUD audits of Jackson’s administration ended in 2013, and one month after Jackson was re-elected in November 2017, HUD’s Inspector General, the FBI and IRS agents in December 2017 raided city hall’s community development department at night to obtain their records.
The first of a series of indictments after the night-time federal raid appear to have begun with building officials Rufus Taylor and Khalil Ewais in August and December of 2018. Jackson had no idea Taylor was entrapping contractors for federal agents under the supervision of Ed Rybka and Ayonna Donald as his “trusted” and ethically incompetent department heads. Both were attorneys leading a department of employees openly asking contractors for bribes in the form of gift certificates and food. Seriously. The ethics forms employees were required to sign were ignored as if they didn’t exist.
Jackson’s former community development director, Cosgrove, was also indicted in December 2018 for trying to arrange a date with an undercover law enforcement officer he thought was a 15-year-old girl. Federal agents were clearly showing their lack of confidence in the Jackson administration’s ethics and competence in managing federal funds after three audits saw no change in federal law and regulation compliance.
While much attention has been paid to the convictions of former Councilman Kenneth Johnson and his aide, Garnell Jamison; little attention has been paid to John Hopkins’ theft indictment and conviction as the former director of Buckeye Shaker Square Development Corporation. The Hopkins conviction should be eye opening to the “CDC” boards and directors; and they should consider “who’s next?” With their involvement in the $37 million Shaker Square drama both Menesse and Johnson may have drawn the federal investigation short straws. So will Bibb if he doesn’t stop tweeting about matters beyond his level of knowledge.
There’s a unique new accountability feature that comes with the acceptance of federal coronavirus and recovery act funds. Finance officers responding to “audit findings” with a “Corrective Action Plan” must direct it to the United States Department of Justice. Cleveland’s 2020 audit includes an audit finding that “9 out of 40 payrolls” charged to a federal grant “were based on hours and rates that did not agree with what they were actually paid.” These findings are the basis for Gentile’s June 24, 2021 correspondence and demonstrate that Jackson and his team are still violating “easy to read” federal laws. Non-reading elected and appointed public officials are a disgrace.
The audit finding is common and rampant among subrecipients of federal grants at all levels and it’s “jailable” serious. Up to 5 years in federal prison. It deals with simple “Time Allocation Sheets” that are being poorly-maintained or not maintained at all by each employee whose wages – either a portion of or entirely – is paid with federal funds. The typical “time sheet fraud” worker being prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice is working a separate job while submitting payroll records to the federal grant recipient.
Every employee whose salary is touched by a federal dollar is required to account for the percentage of his or her wages coming from federal funds on an incremental basis throughout the day. If 25 percent of a building or housing department employee’s salary is covered by a federal grant then 25 percent of the employee’s time must be spent on a grant supported activity and documented … hourly.
Jackson’s 16 years as mayor is the equivalent of a child attending school from the 1st through the 12th grades; and four years of college. Knowing to ensure that all federally-funded workers are maintaining “time allocation sheets” should have long ago been burned into the mayor’s brain after his first term federal law breaking from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2009 was revealed by HUD’s Lawson at the beginning of his second term in office 2010.
A simple time card is insufficient. An inspector inspecting a home that’s going to be demolished with federal funds would have to identify the specific grant supported task associated with their inspection on a Time Allocation Sheet they are individually required to maintain. It would look like … “8:15a – 10a / Inspected 1333 E. 9000th Street for HOME program rehab. Total Time: 1 Hr 45 Minutes.” Since every inspection comes with a report the inspector’s Time Allocation Sheet should include the following. “10a – 10:15a / Completed inspection report for 1333 E. 9000th Street.”
Supervisors and directors are supposed to sign off on the Time Allocation Sheets to ensure the federal law percentages are being met. If the Time Allocation Sheet of a supervisor or director does not include the time it took for them to review time documents submitted by their subordinate employees they are identifying themselves as failing to discharge a federal law duty. Federal law accountability is that narrow.
It’s not what’s in the record but what’s not in it that exposes the fraud or a community development director’s negligence. HUD’s fraud hotline works and both Bibb and Griffin should be operating as if federal officials currently investigating Cleveland’s block grant program have already been contacted. $511 million is not about to be siphoned off by the maliciously greedy. Council should expect every development project they approved – and their individual roles – to be federally-scrutinized. 800-347-3735 is the HUD Office of Inspector General hotline number.
HUD and other federal agencies like Health & Human Services use the time percentages to calculate the effectiveness of federal awards to cities like Cleveland. If inspectors are spending 25 percent of their time on rehab inspections for senior homes, and inspecting 100 homes a year when there’s a backlog of 10,000, then the federal award has to be adjusted. That’s especially if the poverty statistics in the affected areas have already determined the senior homeowners are income eligible.
From HUD’s perspective Cleveland’s failure to manage block grants in accordance with the terms and conditions of the grant management agreement is why the city’s the poorest large municipal corporation in the nation. When Bibb’s mentor, former Mayor Michael White, was administered an oath of office to enforce federal, state and local laws the city’s block grant allocation from HUD was about $30 million. Today it’s less than $20 million and dropping because of an illegal 17-way split and negligent management and findings like the one’s described in Jackson’s derogatory HUD Inspector General audits and public official convictions.
For the small dollar amount federal law violation auditors for the state found, Gentile forwarded a “Corrective Action Plan” to the United States Department of Justice claiming that municipal officials will be more compliant. Gentile’s no longer the acting finance director according to Cleveland’s website. Sharon Dumas is back in her former finance director’s job. She may or may not be aware of Gentile’s letter to the United States Department of Justice, but she’s bound by it and so is Bibb on January 3, 2022. Correspondence like that tends to resurface in federal criminal investigations. Public corruption is always a United States Department of Justice priority.
The 40 payrolls referenced in the mandatory state audit of Cleveland’s use of “coronavirus” funds last year involved those directly under Jackson’s departmental supervision as mayor; and included departmental budgets of $3 million or more. Numerous city departments use “pieces” of a federally-funded grant to pay for “allowable expenses” but the documentation has to be precise.
FBI agents investigated below the $3 million state auditor’s cap; and that’s where they found their indictments of Buckeye’s John Hopkins, Johnson and Jamison. Johnson’s $12,000 in expense account payments over 10 years had nothing to do with federal funds; but he was indicted for alleged misuse anyway. Council members should consider the “CDC moves” they’ve been making over the past 10 years to be within a federal statute of limitation.
What was not included in the state’s audit of Jackson and council’s coronavirus spending for 2020 was a review of how the Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO) or CDC’s were complying with their grant management agreement’s terms and conditions. State audits are not complete or intended to be; and auditors alert auditees that they’re not always able to detect intentional fraud and misrepresentation. It’s why fraud hotlines exist. The HUD Office of Inspector General hotline number is 800-347-3735.
Bibb and Griffin should anticipate that every dime spent of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 money is going to be investigated. They should see themselves as switching roles when they take office in January 2022 with the officials whose names may still be intended for a round of new federal indictments of public officials. Neither has room for “non-reading errors.” Blaine would be smart to lead council on a series of block grant related investigations to boost the legislative authority’s knowledge about the federal law violations that are hurting the poor for whom federal dollars are intended.
Council members who don’t want to perpetuate past incompetence, and who are really there for the people like Anita Gardner showed herself to be, should be demanding to exercise their “congressional-like” investigative and subpoena authority. It’s the most efficent way to learn more about how block grants are required by federal laws to be used in the elimination of slum and blight; and programs for the poor and homeless.