KWGS Exclusive: Mayor Responds
Tulsa, OK – Below is the text of an email, Mayor Taylor sent to City Council members following the open meeting critical the Grants Administration office:
In response to many of your questions at today's committee meeting, I thought it would be helpful to review how we got to where we are on the road to improving our accountability and performance on HUD grants.
When I took office in April 2006, the City's Urban Development Department (UDD), which managed TDA and HUD funds and programs, was part of the Public Works Department. UDD acted as both a recipient of federal funds, as well as maintaining oversight of the funds. I reorganized the department, and developed a separate department of Economic Development and Real Estate. Upon the reorganization, there were two significant leadership retirements: Director of the UDD, Brenda Miller and Community Services Manager Roy Marshall, who has overseen CDBG funds since 1974.
HUD's Oklahoma City field office conducted a monitoring visit July 23-27, 2007. Our staff worked with HUD's Oklahoma City Field Office staff, and later the OIG, to provide the information they requested. An Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report was issued August 30, 2008. After meeting with HUD both in Oklahoma City and Washington, I established a separate department to oversee and monitor proper expenditure of CDBG funds. The Office of Grants Administration was formed in 2008 to provide an independent oversight of the administration of grants received by the City. This department is working closely with the HUD Oklahoma City office to assure compliance with regulations as well as the effective use of CDBG processes. The City's Grants Administration Department is in the process of changing a 33 year pattern of CDBG and HUD funding operations.
In addition, The City hired a consultant recommended by HUD - Dennison Associates, Inc. - to conduct an assessment of HUD award and administration processes, develop the proper procedures for subrecipient oversight, and to help develop our 5-year consolidated plan. This assessment is currently underway.
The most serious issues in the recent HUD monitoring letter dealt with actions which did not take place under this administration's watch. However we are committed to ensuring that they are properly dealt with and that we continue to diligently monitor HUD funds which the City Council authorizes and allocates.
HUD's Washington, DC staff has advised us that change in monitoring is often difficult when subrecipients are accustomed to receiving funds and not being accountable for results. The additional documentation and processes are a significant change from past years' procedures. While this is difficult work, we are committed to insuring that after decades of neglect, the proper procedures are not only put in place but enforced. We realize this means many subrecipients are required to strictly comply with standards not previously required. But to adhere to our commitment to HUD and to the citizens to insure that those who are to be helped by these funds receive the services they need, we will stand firm and invested in the best interests of the citizens of Tulsa.
As Mr. Julius Pegues said during a recent City Council meeting we all need to work together to move forward. I strongly second this statement and hope you will join me. We cannot change the past decades of neglect, but we can insure the funds we currently manage are properly spent.