Opinion by Dale Wilson
“Out on housing project hill
it’s either fortune or fame.
You must pick one or the other tho
neither are to be what they claim.”
–Bob Dylan from “Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
As my childhood hero, Elmer Fudd would say, “There’s something “vewy vewy screwy” about this housing authority grant.
Readers may remember the county listed this $901,000 grant from the Opportunity Fund as going for the “construction of a Boys and Girls Club.” Despite that appearing on 15 different official documents coming out of county administrator, Jim Jones’ office, it was all bullshit.
On July 3rd, yesterday, the county commissioners all gathered to discuss a Memorandum of Understanding to accompany nearly one million dollars of taxpayer money going to the Peninsula Housing Authority. Seems there was a hiccup in the plans.
Nobody can tell exactly where the money is actually going.
Readers may recall the commissioners had to do a “do-over” on the public hearing approving this grant because Jim Jones falsely listed it in the newspaper as a grant “for construction of a Boys and Girls Club.
It was never meant for that purpose. Instead it was actually, allegedly, going to “infrastructure” which includes the destruction of 33 perfectly good homes in order to build a housing project in their place.
We cannot be sure even that is legit.
Now it comes out. The money is actually going into “a gray area” as County Administrator Jim Jones calls it.
Jones now says the money granted to the housing authority will go to a “consortium of owners of the new property.” Get it? Our tax money is going into a “pot of money” for the use of someone who will make a profit but not be identified.
“This money is going to go into that collective pot as their skin in the game, I guess,” said Jones.
It appears our county administrator has to “guess” where nearly a million in taxpayer dollars is going.
Back in April Kay Kassinger, executive director of the housing authority, testified before the board the grant would be used exclusively for “site preparation, grading, storm water remediation, utilities, curb and gutter, sidewalks, water, sewer, power and communications infrastructure.
When it comes time to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding they begin to crawfish. Now it appears the money will be loaned to a Chicago based non-profit, National Equity Fund, Inc. Allegedly a major financier for the project.
“It’s a gray area,” says Jones. “It doesn’t say you can’t use it for a loan. It says it has to be used for the project. Well, the people that they’re loaning it to, the consortium of entities who’s borrowing the money, is the one who is going to build the project,” Jones continued.
Jones went on to say he did not know the identity of the consortium of entities intended to receive our money. There is no contract assuring anything will be built.
County Commissioner, Bill Peach registered “concerns” about transparency. “The only concern I have is a member of the public saying: ‘Excuse me, you’re loaning money to an entity you haven’t even described?”
Commissioner Mark Ozias said “my other concern would be what assurance would we have that the $901,000 would be used for the purpose that it was allocated for? There were specific underground infrastructure pieces of the project that were specifically attached to the application,” he continued.
“I understand the arrangement but it is a little disconcerting to feel like it’s just going into a big pool,” said Ozias. “They applied for specific elements and this path really potentially muddies those waters pretty considerably,” he concluded.
Readers may recall Ozias shut down public comment, during an official hearing, when these concerns were raised by Port O Call back in April. It was the first, and only time, in recent memory when public comment at a Clallam County public hearing was shut down by the chairperson, Ozias.
“It’s less of a concern of mine,” said Commissioner Randy Johnson. “If I had a major investor who’s private and doesn’t want to (be) disclosed, why, that runs people away,” he said. “But the agreement says specifically that these funds will be utilized for X. I think that’s what they’re going to be used for, or else we’ve got another problem,” he concluded.
Port O Call suggests if past is prelude then “we’ve got another problem.”
The housing authority wants to take this Clallam County taxpayer money, which they falsely testified as going to local infrastructure improvements, but is actually going to be loaned to an unknown Chicago entity, hoping it will someday be used for something – but there’s no guarantee of anything.
Turns out the $901,000 grant money will be immediately transferred to a heretofore unknown entity called “Mt. Angeles I LLLP” which is a state corporation with only one “Governor,” Kay Kassinger, executive director of the Peninsula Housing Authority. The Board of Commissioners appoint the board of directors for the housing authority–they have zero control or influence over Mt. Angeles I LLLP. There are no contracts between Mt. Angeles I LLLP and Peninsula Housing Authority. There are no contracts with Mt. Angeles I LLLP and any contractors. Kay Kassinger can do as she pleases with this taxpayer money with zero oversight. This seems like a lot of trust placed in someone who has already been less than forthcoming in testimony before the board when advocating for the grant.
Two deputies from the county prosecutor, Mark Nichol’s office advise a Memorandum of Understanding protects the county from liability, according to Jones. Actually it only protects county commissioners if the money ends up in a rat hole. Commissioners can be held personally liable if they mis-allocate public funds. However, they have Mark Nichols, County Prosecutor and $100 million taxpayer dollars to fight any suits they may arise from mis-allocation of public funds.
It appears they are attempting to shift that liability off onto the already “shifty” housing authority. Once the money leaves the treasurer’s office it can never be recovered.
While the housing authority bills itself as offering “affordable housing” this is a misnomer. Actually they charge “market price” for rents. The rent is subsidized by U. S. government-backed programs such as Section 8. This means a group of unidentified investors will be making a handsome return off “affordable housing” if ever something is actually built.
Port O Call attempted to learn the identities of these “investors” but was repeatedly rebuffed.
The Board of Commissioners are expected to sign off on this disgraceful bit of legerdemain at the next board meeting July 11th. Stay tuned.
How it works
For more information see these stories filed previously at Port O Call News:
http://www.king5.com/news/investigations/housing-program-accused-of-charging-misleading-feesg/414567764 PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Participants in a housing program in Clallam County have accused the organization running the program, Peninsula Housing Authority, of supplementing its budget at the expense of the low-income families in the program. The Mutual Self…
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