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Thu, Aug

HUD Not Satisfied with Inglewood’s Explanation of Use of CDBG Funds

SOUTH OF THE 10 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development returned the city of Inglewood’s 2020 Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report (CAPER) because the City needed to make revisions before it would be accepted.

In layman’s terms, HUD found the City didn’t give residents enough time to weigh in on how Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds would be spent.

The City submitted the CAPER report on Dec. 30, 2021, and by Jan. 4, 2022, were notified they needed to make the draft plan available again for public review. This would entail the CIty holding two public hearings on the matter, which were scheduled for Mar. 1 and Mar. 8.

Inglewood residents have come to rely on watching city council meetings on the city’s Facebook page during the pandemic, however, during the Mar. 1 public hearing residents were not able to watch the meeting due to “technical difficulties”. When residents called in asking to for the items to be reheard, Mayor James Butts had the operator disconnect their calls. 

The video would be uploaded to the City’s YouTube page but is noticeably missing sound.

The Mar. 8 staff report details HUD is requiring the City to “provide greater detail and specific data” pertaining to activities and accomplishments of their HUD funded programs for the October 2020 – September 2021 reporting period, which includes CARES funding for the city’s rent relief program.

The City spent a good chunk of the money on the senior meal program, and allocated $900,000 (?) for repairs to Rogers Park. 

What’s most disappointing is the city receiving $1.8 million for rent relief, and only spent $244,000 of it. 

The City also claimed to give out $1.2 million in debit cards for pandemic assistance. 

Records requests were sent to the City in October about the disbursement of the rent relief, as residents continue to insist they aren’t being responded to, which have yet to be provided by City Clerk Aisha Thompson.

Residents complained to the mayor and council during a scheduled public hearing, on allocating the rent relief dollars, that they hold the meetings at 2pm when people are at work and can’t call in to the meetings. 

“If it’s really important they can call in during their break,” said Butts.

The City continues to lock residents out of city hall to attend meetings in person, despite other cities reopening their chambers to the public. 

“I’m questioning why the public hearing, on this rent relief program, is being held during a time when people are at work and instead set aside an evening meeting to ensure more residents can participate in how the funds will be spent.”  -- Rick Ford, with the Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union 

Residents were asked to submit comments to the City’s CDBG division between Oct. 13 – 20, however, HUD requires a (15) day comment period. Simultaneously, unbeknownst to residents, CDBG Manager Damian Pipkins, who residents thought they were emailing, was no longer employed by the City.

The City Clerk’s office continues to publish crucial public hearing notices on the matter in a newspaper that is not circulated throughout the entire city. Herald Publications, which is based in El Segundo, is routinely selected to convey important information to Inglewood residents, while their paper is only available inside of Inglewood City Hall, where the public can’t enter without an appointment. A review of HP’s website doesn’t list the locations where the papers can be found either.

The City’s Mar. 8 staff report provides no contact person’s name and/or email of who residents should send comment to by Mar. 12, when the comment period closes. Our suggestions of who to send them to are:

Why is the City intent on removing the public from the process of allocating federal dollars?

Inglewood has previously misspent some HUD funds, as outlined in a 2016 audit of their Housing Choice Voucher program. 

David Esparza, who served over the housing department, abruptly resigned at the close of 2021. Esparza previously worked as a Financial Officer at the Los Angeles Housing Authority (HACLA), when the agency faced scrutiny for mismanagement of public funds intended to assist low-income residents with housing.

Here is video from the Sep. 28 city council meeting where City Manager Artie Fields explains the low disbursement of the rent relief funds.

 

(2UrbanGirls has been cited in CityWatchLA, Compton Herald, Daily Breeze, Daily News, Inglewood Today, Intersections South LA, KCRW, KPCC, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, LA Watts Times, Mercury News, Orange County Register and The Atlantic.)