Only on 12: City of Augusta admits mishandling federal funds

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five, June 19, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---After a short walk down Holley Street you can see change is in the air. It's a community once filled with rundown abandoned homes that is now welcoming some brand new homes.

"That just doesn't happen everyday that's our mission to change the quality of life for the people that we serve," said Chester Wheeler who is director of Housing and Community Development.

It's done through a program called Home Ownership Made Easy, but some are forecasting a nightmare on Holley Street as a recent audit shows program mismanagement over the last 4 years.

"We didn't do what we were supposed to do," said Wheeler.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is calling into question more than one million dollars.

"It's significant you can't dismiss it but we should have been more aggressive...I can't tell you why i can't answer those questions."

But city administrator Fred Russell seems to have an idea of where the problem started. "We had some acting people in there that really didn't have the skills and expertise to fill that position. It took us a long time to fill it because that's a tough position to fill," said Russell.

After at least 3 different directors in the last 3 or 4 years Chester stepped up to the plate last April.

"In the words of my grandson as he always says...it's just another mountain I gotta climb," said Wheeler.

Now he's got to find a way to keep the city from having to pay back half a million dollars. "All I can tell you is...from the time that I arrived forward we won't have these issues," said Wheeler.

But that's what we'd expect him to say...right?

"No...let me just say this...in 05 I retired. I did not leave the comfort of playing golf everyday to come to Augusta without knowing that I could make a difference," said Wheeler.

Mr. Wheeler says he is heading to Atlanta soon to debate the issue.


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