City housing audit problem could have been avoided

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at six o'clock, April 19, 2008

Augusta, GA---"Of course it could have been avoided...oversight plain and simple," said Barbara Gordon.
Gordon says if the community advisory board was still in place the city could have avoided being accused of mismanaging federal money.

"All we had to do was just to make sure that the Department of Community Development was doing what they were supposed to do because for a very long time they weren't," said Gordon.

The new department head agrees. "We didn't do what we were supposed to do," said Chester Wheeler.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is calling into question more than one million dollars. Now Chester Wheeler needs to find a way to keep the city from having to pay back half a million dollars.

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

He's bearing the full burden on his shoulders. "As the director it doesn't go on anybody else's...I can't pass the buck to my staff," said Wheeler.

"That's just like putting a fox in charge of a hen house...I never heard of such," said Gordon.

Gordon says she's certain of one thing. "That department has so many programs...O mean it is such an intricate department there is no way that it can really operate without an oversight or an overview committee of some kind," said Gordon.

"I have a staff that has strong integrity, good hearts, and they work hard and with at staff like that...and the support from the commission like we have there's nothing we can't do," said Wheeler.

The advisory board is appointed by commissioners. The audit spanned 4 years. So how did we even get here? The city says the Atlanta office of Community Planning saw things differently, and the office never gave them any indication things were going so wrong.

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