CLEVELAND, OH – When Asian Indian immigrant Tania Menesse served Mayor Frank Jackson for nearly two years as his director of community development it was her job to “monitor” the “subrecipients” of the block grant funds Cleveland receives from the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). One of the subrecipients Menesse had a duty to “monitor” at least twice during her two years in the appointed public office was her current employer. Neighborhood Progress Inc (NPI).
Had Menesse monitored her current employer as required by federal laws Cleveland’s community development directors have not mastered and obeyed, then NPI office manager Toni White should not have asked this EJBNEWS writer for his full name and the reason he wanted to review the non-profit recipient of federal fund’s public records. My question to White came from a November 30, 2021 call to the federally and private grant funded public office. White confidently stated that NPI’s records were not public and neither were its board’s meetings.
Just that confession alone makes NPI ineligible to receive and spend the $12 million in American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 money Menesse wants just to purchase parcels of Shaker Square buildings appraised at $5.6 million. Instead of seeking $37 million in federal funds to purchase and bring parcels of Shaker Square properties “up to code,” the NPI Menesse manages under the board leadership of Jeffrey Patterson should be criminally investigated. Patterson is the law-violating executive director of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) who has conspired with board member and attorney Robert Davis to keep him on the federally-funded board long after the two 3-year terms of office I appointed him to have expired.
Davis was my CMHA appointee to the board in 2006 and again in 2008 when I served as East Cleveland’s mayor. I appointed him to fill Rev. David Hunter’s unexpired term. His term of office expired in 2011 and Davis was not reappointed by then Mayor Gary Norton and confirmed by East Cleveland council as required by law. For the past 10 years he’s had no legal authority to serve on CMHA’s board as East Cleveland’s usurping representative or to chair its meetings. Patterson’s “secretary’s” duty for the board required him to notify East Cleveland’s mayor and council in writing when Davis’ term expired. Davis told this writer he and Patterson mutually agreed to remain silent.
Conspiring to keep Davis on the CMHA board is not the only law breaking act Patterson has engaged in as the federally-funded government agency’s executive director. Every document he submitted to HUD alleging that Woody Woods Estates was being maintained in accordance with federal laws is fraudulent. Patterson had humans living in a black mold infested property he and the board Davis presided over were duty-bound by federal law to maintain in accordance with the standards set forth in the Housing Act of 1937. He “deferred” maintenance for years and only collected rent. The property CMHA treated like a “slum” was sold in 2019 to the Pangion Group with code violations.
NPI is and has been for years in violation of the terms and conditions of its “grant management agreement” with Cleveland to comply with federal, state and local laws White’s “no public records and no public meetings” answer shows Patterson and Menesse either don’t know or have criminally chosen to ignore. Before she joined NPI it was Menesse’s duty to monitor Joel Ratner’s management and Patterson’s officiation over the board. Jackson and council – when Menesse managed the department of community development – were not advised by her that Ratner and Patterson were disobeying open records, open meeting and public bidding laws with federal funds.
Council should have been using the community development director’s annual monitoring reports to determine if the Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDO) they funded were eligible to receive the money. No monitoring. No money. No reports, even down to the “time allocation sheets,” and no money.
Time allocation sheets are mandatory and identify just how many hours they spend daily on their federal money’s “supported” activities. Cleveland city council should be examining each CHDO’s payroll through the monitoring duties discharged by the community development director. The federal funds Cleveland’s delivering to NPI are supposed to be “segregated” and not “co-mingled” with its other sources of funding. Those are the dollars to which Cleveland city council members and the public have a right to see.
Pursuant to Title 2 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations, Part 200, “grantee monitoring of subrecipient activities is required to ensure that (1) subawards are used for authorized purposes, in compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the subaward, and (2) subaward performance goals are achieved.” Cleveland is the “grantee” and NPI, Detroit Shoreway, Broadway, Tremont and the other non-profit entities misidentified as CDC’s are the “subrecipients.” The federal regulation sets forth the “internal controls” grantees and subrecipients of HUD block grant funds must obey in order to continue receiving federal funds.
Every “internal control” is supposed to exist as a management tool to ensure that a federal, state or local law and regulation is being obeyed. Veteran Cleveland council members who have participated in post-audit conferences should be acutely aware of the term “internal control.” Federal laws, regulations and Office of Management & Budget “circulars” are written so specifically in plain English that council should be able to read them and ask for the identified documents the laws and technical manuals require community development directors to maintain.
HUD only requires council to invest “at least” 15 percent of its annual block grant allocations with CHDO’s. Every mayor is supposed to maintain the “administrative capacity” to spend the remaining 85 percent of federal funds on program activities that can be performed by city workers. A portion of the wages of city workers performing federally-supported grant-related activities is an allowable expense as long as it is documented on a time allocation sheet. Between 15 and 20 percent of the city’s block grant awards from HUD can be used to pay the city’s “administrative costs” for managing the grant.
For some false paradigm originated reason Cleveland’s mayors and councils between Michael White, Jane Campbell and Frank Jackson have given away million dollar chunks of dwindling block grant dollars to CDC’s they failed to monitor. When White took office in January 1990 the city was receiving roughly $30 million in annual block grant funds. Cleveland’s poverty levels entitles it to $40 million or more. It gets around $19 million from HUD because of laws like the ones I’m sharing above being violated; and because council chooses to split the money 17 ways instead of allocating it to the poor census tracts that generated it.
When I served in CMHA director George James’ cabinet as his chief of communications I wrote the letter he signed and sent to Mayor George Voinovich demanding that the city restore picking up the housing authority’s $3 million worth of annual trash generated by residents. James contended that CMHA residents were Cleveland residents and entitled to the same services as others. He needed the $3 million in trash money for maintenance. Patterson doesn’t fight for CMHA’s tenants.
What Menesse as Cleveland’s community development director had the statutory duty to do was ensure that NPI and every other CHDO misidentified as a CDC enacted bylaws, resolutions and policies that “substantially complied” with federal, state and local laws. The fact she didn’t is “dereliction of duty” and makes her receipt of public funds “theft in office.” [NOTE: The video above of Tania Menesse being sworn in by Mayor Frank Jackson affirms Menesse as being born in India and is proof she swore to discharge the duties of a community development director under our nation’s constitutions and laws; and not those of her foreign Communist home of birth. India is in its 101st year of Communism. In the 1954 Communist Control Act the Congress described how Communists can be identified by the way they do not uphold our constitutions, enforce our laws and meet in secret. She was born December 1973 in India. Jackson said her parents immigrated here in 1977. Did they arrive and remain lawfully? Did she, individually, apply for citizenship? Were Menesse’s parents affiliated with India’s Communist Party?]
The non-profit subrecipients calling themselves CDC’s are discharging adjunct “functions” of the federal government with the federal funds they receive from the city of Cleveland. So is the city in its direct entitlement relationship with HUD. Every employee under the mayor’s supervision is literally “deputized” to discharge his duties as the city’s chief law enforcement officer when he adminsters them an oath of office pursuant to Section 705.28 of the Ohio Revised Code. They’re supposed to know the federal, state and local laws he has to enforce for their job classifications. Menesse violated her oath of office as a former Cleveland public official.
The activities of every official of Cleveland or the non-profit are required to “mirror” the government whose money they’re spending. It means the bylaws, resolutions and policies of every CDC must mirror or substantially comply with the relevant sections of Cleveland’s charter, ordinances and administrative code; as well as the relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code and United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations that is the source of their federal funds. It was Menesse’s duty to inspect NPI’s resolutions for federal and state law compliance as an enforcer of federal block grant laws for the city of Cleveland. Even now at NPI she’s a public official with the same statutory duties as she had before to enforce federal, state and local block grant laws.
Neighborhood Progress Inc. is purportedly an experienced non-profit agency subrecipient of federal block grant funds from Cleveland whose director before Menesse was an attorney. Joel Ratner. He should have been statutorily competent.
As Cleveland’s community development director it was Menesse’s duty to know Section 149.431 of the Ohio Revised Code and to report NPI’s violation to Jackson and council if she monitored Ratner’s management. It exists under the heading, “Records of governmental or nonprofit organizations receiving governmental funds.” Keep hiring immigrants without fully vetting their backgrounds.
Menesse was supposed to ensure that every CHDO she had a statutory duty to monitor had “by rule” enacted a board resolution during an open and public meeting that “substantially complied” with R.C. 149.431(A).
“Except as provided in sections 9.833, 2744.081, and 3345.203 of the Revised Code, any governmental entity or agency and any nonprofit corporation or association, except a corporation organized pursuant to Chapter 1719. of the Revised Code prior to January 1, 1980 or organized pursuant to Chapter 3941. of the Revised Code, that enters into a contract or other agreement with the federal government, a unit of state government, or a political subdivision or taxing unit of this state for the provision of services shall keep accurate and complete financial records of any moneys expended in relation to the performance of the services pursuant to such contract or agreement according to generally accepted accounting principles. Such contract or agreement and such financial records shall be deemed to be public records as defined in division (A)(1) of section 149.43 of the Revised Code and are subject to the requirements of division (B) of that section, except that … “
That’s not the entire statute but it’s the part I know Menesse had a statutory duty to monitor and confirm that every CHDO’s board approved resolutions that opened the agency’s records and meetings to the public. The requirements of “division (B) of Section 149.43 of the Ohio Revised Code instructed NPI’s White not to ask me for my name. If she did it was her duty to tell me it was not necessary.
White also had no legal authority to ask me why I wanted the records. She had the duty to make the records available “for public inspection” during normal business hours. And she had the duty to provide me with copies at the cost of depleted materials. Typically between three and five cents per copy. If all I wanted to do was inspect the public records in NPI’s office she had the duty to keep them maintained in such a way that I could do so when I walked into the office without an appointment. NPI officials can’t stop the public wanting access to public records at the door.
When NPI’s White stated that the non-profit agency’s meeting agendas, minutes and board resolutions were not public the “public official” was further describing the unlawful behavior Patterson and Menesse were engaging in with federal funds. When Menesse served as Jackson’s community development director one of her monitoring reports should have included NPI’s violation of Section 121.22(F) of the Ohio Revised Code. The heading is, “Public meetings – exceptions.”
“Every public body, by rule, shall establish a reasonable method whereby any person may determine the time and place of all regularly scheduled meetings and the time, place, and purpose of all special meetings. A public body shall not hold a special meeting unless it gives at least twenty-four hours’ advance notice to the news media that have requested notification, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the member or members calling the meeting shall notify the news media that have requested notification immediately of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting. The rule shall provide that any person, upon request and payment of a reasonable fee, may obtain reasonable advance notification of all meetings at which any specific type of public business is to be discussed. Provisions for advance notification may include, but are not limited to, mailing the agenda of meetings to all subscribers on a mailing list or mailing notices in self-addressed, stamped envelopes provided by the person.”
NPI board chairman Patterson was, assumably, appointed for his experience as the director of federally-funded CMHA. Operationally he’s monitored by HUD and Ohio’s Auditor of State. CMHA has tenant organizations and vendors he has a duty to monitor as a subrecipient of federal funds just like Menesse did for Jackson. Both should know subrecipient non-profits receiving federal funds are “public offices” as defined in Section 149.011(A) of the Ohio Revised Code. “Documents, reports and records definitions” is the heading. They also should have known they were public officials spending public money under the color of an office that required all their transactions to be public and documented.
(A) “Public office” includes any state agency, public institution, political subdivision, or other organized body, office, agency, institution, or entity established by the laws of this state for the exercise of any function of government. “Public office” does not include the nonprofit corporation formed under section 187.01 of the Revised Code. (C) “Public money” includes all money received or collected by or due a public official, whether in accordance with or under authority of any law, ordinance, resolution, or order, under color of office, or otherwise. It also includes any money collected by any individual on behalf of a public office or as a purported representative or agent of the public office. (D) “Public official” includes all officers, employees, or duly authorized representatives or agents of a public office. (E) “Color of office” includes any act purported or alleged to be done under any law, ordinance, resolution, order, or other pretension to official right, power, or authority (G) “Records” includes any document, device, or item, regardless of physical form or characteristic, including an electronic record as defined in section 1306.01 of the Revised Code, created or received by or coming under the jurisdiction of any public office of the state or its political subdivisions, which serves to document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the office.
Cleveland and East Cleveland are “direct entitlement cities” which means they’re eligible to receive funds directly from HUD. I’ve managed East Cleveland’s block grant program twice as one mayor’s chief of staff; and after I went through three or four community development directors in less than three years during my term as mayor.
I terminated East Cleveland’s agreement with Community Housing Solutions (CHS) when Andy Nikiforovs managed it. I sent a letter to the Cleveland Foundation expressing no desire for CHS to receive funds in East Cleveland’s name. I hired former Cuyahoga County treasurer Wade Steen to audit Nikiforovs’ records before I left office in 2009. That was a direct instruction from HUD’s inspector general. Had I remained in office then I would have assigned my director of law, the late Almeta Johnson, to “recapture” all the money the city had invested with CHS.
I refused to allow Cleveland Housing Network’s (CHN) Rob Curry to build any more low-income housing in East Cleveland that he was selling to unqualified buyers. People were being foreclosed on after about a year of home ownership. Curry’s group was submitting scam paperwork in the names of the uninformed poor to 5th Third Bank and other lenders.
Every CHS decision I made came from Nikiforovs telling me he needed board approval for the mayor of East Cleveland to attend a board meeting. When he said CHS’s meetings were not public he was never getting another dime in East Cleveland’s name. If Jackson had been blessed with more statutory knowledge than as his directors there wouldn’t be a “CDC” left in Cleveland. Retired HUD planning director Jorgelle Lawson told me I was the only mayor in Ohio who attended HUD’s training meetings that are open to mayors and council members if they choose.
HUD’s Inspector General twice audited my “daily” management of East Cleveland’s block grant program that prior to me had been the worst run in the nation. I receive zero audit findings. Former HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told me in his office at the national agency’s Washington, D.C. headquarters I was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously managing a block grant program and running a city. That’s out of 19, 429 mayors. He’d invited me to meet with him after I asked a question none of his subordinates could answer at the City Club. Jackson gave me unprecedented access to HUD’s leadership during a day of floor by floor meetings starting from the top with him. We had an interesting connection with his being from Saint Louis, Missouri and I was raised in East Saint Louis, Illinois in the Samuel Gomper Homes.
So from my “knowing” perspective, federal prosecutors should have taken Menesse into custody when she testified against former Ward 4 Councilman Kenneth Johnson, Garnell Jamison and John Hopkins. White’s answer affirms that Menesse and Patterson are operating NPI like a criminal enterprise. If the statutes I’ve identified above do not exist in her monitoring report of NPI, and every other CDC she oversaw as Cleveland’s community development director, Menesse criminally obstructed the Jackson administration’s duty to enforce the city’s grant management agreements with each CHDO. That included Buckeye Area Development Corporation whom she denied technical assistance.
Former board chairman and retired Cleveland police commander Marvin Cross asked me for training after he was appointed to the board. I wrote the language for the letter he forwarded to Menesse requesting technical assistance. I would ask if she obstructed Jackson and council from knowing about NPI’s open meetings and open records violations for the job. She’s been described by her Shaker Square critics as a “malicious liar.” Council should be investigating the CHDO’s and the community development department instead of just giving them more million dollar chunks of unaccounted for federal grant dollars.
The unlawfully secretive NPI wants $37 million and not $12 million in public funds to purchase and renovate a parcel of properties in Shaker Square; and its greedy officials want the money out of the $108 million Cleveland has already received from the United States government from its American Recovery Plan Act of 2021 funds. $511 million is coming to the city altogether from Congress. It costs $1 million according to Save-A-Lot to open one of its grocery stores. One small corner of Cleveland wants the equivalent of 37 grocery stores out of money that could actually be used to finance them. That’s about two new grocery stores per ward.
What Patterson, Menesse and the board don’t want is the public prying into how they’re making decisions and spending public money outside all known laws. Ward 4 Councilwoman Anita Gardner wants answers to all of the following unanswered questions.
How did NPI bring Burton Bell Carr from Central on top of 5 CDC’s that are already in the ward? Why is two percent of the $12 million or $400,000 allocated to Burton Bell Carr? Why is Community Builders getting $20 million? Who is Village Builders? Why are they being asked to build. Who sold Audubon to Burton Bell Carr? Why is Burton Bell Carr buying the property?
The answers to Gardner’s questions are required by federal, state and local laws to be in the public records NPI’s public officials created during open board meetings. It’s why I searched its website and then called NPI’s office and asked the woman who identified herself as Toni White where agendas and minutes of the meetings were available.
When she supplied me with her email address and advised that I could send an email to her with my full name, phone number and reasons for wanting the records I responded that it wasn’t necessary. She’d already informed me that Neighborhood Progress Inc’s records and meetings are not public. I contacted members of council I knew to report the crimes. Now I’m making the crimes known to the public.
Former Mayor Michael White is affiliated with NPI’s board on behalf of the Mandel Corporation. As Cleveland’s former chief law enforcement officer I thought he might have better looked out for Jackson by making sure all the laws I’ve described above and more were obeyed.
Neighborhood Progress Inc’s closed meetings and non-public records makes the non-profit ineligible to receive or spend federal funds. Instead of giving them more money council should ask State Auditor David Yost for a special Community Development department compliance audit with an emphasis on what they’ve been calling CDC’s. He should identify every “Finding” that must be “Recovered.” The “Findings” must be reported to both the county and federal prosecutors.
Here’s the problem I see for certain members of council from Cleveland who are pushing the Shaker Square legislation. Federal law enforcement authorities will look at the individual member of council pushing colleagues into a relationship with Neighborhood Progress Inc to buy the Shaker Square property now appraised at $5.6 million for $12 million as a “moving party.” The “emergency” ordinance Kevin Kelley wants his colleagues to pass will be viewed as a “criminal tool.” This is not an “emergency” as identified by Cleveland’s charter or Ohio law and I’m not citing the sections. Look them up.
Rubin picked up the Shaker Square properties in 2004 for $7.5 million. $14 million was available from Keybank for renovations back then according to published reports. $20 million had been poured into it prior to 1999 before Rubin purchased it. Now the full cost for bringing it up to code and improved is another $25 million on top of the $12 million. Interim Councilwoman Gardner isn’t buying the bullshit.
“Peter Rubin walks away from nuisance he created with his deferred maintenance and now Tania Menesse wants to bail him out,” Gardner said. The question she raises is valid since it was Jackson’s duty to inspect Shaker Square for the past 16 years. Has council reviewed Shaker Square’s building records and those in the housing court? Building and housing is among the most bribe taking departments at city hall.
Blaine Griffin had better run away from this criminally-inspired lunacy with a quickness and NPI’s closed meetings and public records is the out. Mayor-elect Justin Bibb and his team should be taking notes. Convict music is playing. Akon.
Council should demand copies of all of Menesse’s monitoring reports for every CHDO she was supposed to have inspected during her time as Cleveland’s community development director. They should examine those the current community development director has created. The information I’ve learned is under that official’s watch.
Council should further obtain all of Neighborhood Progress Inc’s and Burton Bell Carr’s audits, meeting agenda, minutes and contracts to test for themselves if their business is being conducted in public. If it’s not you have to deliver the records to federal prosecutors and recapture the block grant money they did not spend lawfully.