Grovetown a bad business deal

The jury’s back on the flopped Grovetown project and the findings are no one did anything that violated a law, but there was more than enough incompetence and conflicts of interest on the parts of the city of Albany and the Cutliff Grove Church organization handling the low-income housing project to ensure it flopped.

As District Attorney Greg Edwards aptly put it, the project was a “bad business deal.”

Starting with the city’s initial denial of certification of Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center as a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) that was reversed five months later by city Department of Economic and Community Development Director Johnny Hamilton, who would later become a paid consultant of the organization he certified, the entire Grovetown development project was a boondoggle that ended up costing Albany taxpayers $374,715.

While an investigation by Edwards’ office did not find any money that was used illegally, it can certainly be argued that the spending was unwise. Basically, Albany taxpayers picked up the tab while a group of people who didn’t know what they were doing did absolutely nothing to help those with limited incomes get affordable housing.

Nearly $375,000 taken from the taxpayers and nothing — absolutely nothing — to show for it.

What the report by Edwards’ office did show, however, was that those involved with the resource center weren’t properly trained to qualify for CHDO status — as Hamilton’s predecessor Richard Wooten originally found — and didn’t have the experience to perform this type of housing project. On top of that, they had no experience and expertise in basic areas such as document control, creating budgets, controlling budgets, keeping records with employees and staff, spotting indicators of fraud and abuse, or spotting indicators of conflicts of interest and correcting them.

The city’s DECD personnel, who should have been its experts on this, came out looking just as bad, with the DA finding they had inadequate training in document control, the rules of CHDOs, spotting indicators of fraud and abuse, and having a working knowledge of how CHDO management budgets should work. The city’s finance department flunked as well, Edwards’ office found, by failing to recognize proper document control and indicators of fraud and abuse, and by failing to questions the payments the city was making with out approval in writing.

Failure seems to be the one consistency in this whole affair.

The prosecutor also said the city’s DECD and finance departments should have been on top of the conflicts of interest that ran deep in this project.

And that, essentially, is the problem. There was no accountability, and no system in place that would create accountability. As a result, a handful of folks made some money, the church turned a $20,000 profit on a land deal and the people with needs who were to have been helped were, once again, left out in the cold.

City Manager James Taylor says the city has addressed the shortcomings that led to this utter and complete waste of taxpayers’ money. We hope so. If not, Albany needs to stay out of the CHDO business until its personnel are fully capable of doing the necessary checks and oversight that will ensure the money is spent wisely and the people who need the help actually get it.


whattheheck 3 years, 11 months ago

The City of Albany needs to get out of the subsidized housing business. The more we build, the more we increase "poverty" which follows the copious number of units available. Thus, we are attracting the poor from other locations due to our generous support services as opposed to caring for those already here. Poverty is our largest industry. Hence, it will never be eliminated and likely never reduced since there is so much money and power at stake. .

If you look at the information submitted by the Grovetown architect, some units were to be three bedroom garden apartments with all the usual rooms for such housing plus a "bonus room", two balconies, and two car garages. Nice housing indeed since the HUD intent--read it on their website--is to provide "decent" housing. The days of the "ghetto" are long gone and have been replaced by housing far superior to what many who work for a living could afford.

Why on earth would anyone qualifying for such housing consider trying to better themselves and become self sustaining? What other country on earth provides its "poor" with such a high standard of living? Isn't America wonderful!

No, Albany will never get out of the poverty business--it cannot afford to do so.


Sister_Ruby 3 years, 11 months ago

What was the trigger for the design to change from 32 townhouses to 16 apartments (described above) ?? Then the price went up over $1MIllion!!! You can't fix stupid.


whattheheck 3 years, 11 months ago

I haven't read much of the investigation report yet for the explanation. Likely, the change itself was because Fed and private money to build 32 lower quality units to sell was not available but Fed money to subsidize 16 higher quality units to rent was. Remember, cost and fees often run together--higher costs generate higher fees, In general, subsidy money seems more readily available through the city/state using Fed funds. It should be noted that subsidy projects are lucrative. In CY 2010, audit reports show the already built Mt Zion Garden Apts got $1.9 million from the Feds shown as loans and direct subsidies. Being "poor" and claiming to "help the poor" both have their financial rewards, or so it seems.

When you look at how Rivers drained the "river of cash" being created by the city, you can understand why "development" is so lucrative. On the defunct $12 million University Garden complex we ate a bullet on, the "developer"s fee" alone would have been $1 million big ones. Not bad, uh Sis?

What I don't understand is why our friends in the press doesn't play a more proactive role in what we see happening. Indicators and information are there--the press isn't until Custer has already taken it in the shorts!


Amazed2 3 years, 11 months ago

"Grovetown a Bad Business Deal" ?? That depends on who you are and how you look at it. If you are one of the hardworking taxpayers here that have to pay the money back then Hell Yes it was and is a Bad Business Deal. However, if you were one of the ones that did very littles for the effort but got to keep the entire $375,000 dollars then Heck I consider that a Friggin Fantastic Deal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I guess if I ever go to Aunt Fannies and eat and they ask me for Money I will take the 5th too.


Amazed2 3 years, 10 months ago

No reason to worry in the future because the City Manager, Mr. James Taylor who I think has the best of intent in this matter has stated that the city has "addressed shortcomings" that that led to this utter and complete waste of taxpayers money. I would hope that not only by making these public statements that he has actually been able to accomplish the level of comfort needed to publically make this statement. I would hope that the Director of DCED, Ms. Latoya Cutts has bought into what Mr. Taylor says. I hope that Mr. Jame Taylor has laid down the ground rules for continued employment for key staff in the City Financial Dept and DCED. I would assume that the DC in DCED means that Dougherty County Tax monies are also involved so I trust or should I say Hope the Dougherty County leaders are involved in these matters as well. Seems the Dougherty County leaders and the City leaders in general are laying Low on thes issues and the DCSS mess.


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