Redeeming Bad Loans; Protecting TaxpayersLast week, the City of Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Urban Renewal Agency headed to federal court to protect the taxpayer. For years, investigators have been examining this agency which is funded in large part by federal grants. To my surprise, we recently discovered $6 million in bad loans and undocumented “giveaways” to affiliates of two individuals. There was no paperwork on file, records were missing, and every effort to hold people responsible was met with obstructionism. The potential consequence from the actions of former officials who sold out Mount Vernon starts at a staggering 12 percent property tax increase!
For a quarter century, Mount Vernon has been victimized by a small group of greedy, power hungry people. We know who they are and they wander among us, spreading false propaganda to distract from their misgivings. Dr. Martin Luther King warned that victims of the rich and powerful often “do not know their legal redress and accepts the role of a supplicant unprotected by rules, regulations and safeguards.”
As a native son and visible man, it is my obligation and duty to defend Mount Vernon’s bright future. While dark dealings of the past cloud the way forward, it is crystal clear that doing the right thing and revealing the details of the missing millions is why I, and Mount Vernon’s future, have been attacked by those desperate to keep their profitable secrets secret.
The simple truth is the federal government wants its money back. The missing $6 million came from federal programs administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the City of Mount Vernon. These federal dollars ought to have gone towards public service and community programs. They could have gone towards seniors for nutrition, exercise, and recreational programming. It could have gone to our young people to provide scholarships and sports equipment. They could have gone towards fixing Memorial Field or eliminating potholes, making way for smooth streets.
Instead, millions of your tax dollars were diverted toward corporate welfare in its worst form. According to the federal lawsuit, the elite were empowered to abandon HUD guidelines, converting federal cash into sweetheart real-estate deals — making the rich richer and poor poorer. Imagine getting a loan for nearly $2 million and only having to pay $1,300 a month. That’s less than most of us pay for rent or childcare! More upsetting is the repayment term says, “Principal and all accrued but unpaid interest shall be due and payable on December 31, 2046.” (See ‘Exhibit M’ of Mount Vernon vs. Davis, Walker, Wallace, Griffith et. al.)
You read that correctly… essentially, a payment back to Mount Vernon is not due from the individual/entity for 30 years after the loan was made. How is this legal? How is this moral? How is this ethical? Why was this concealed from the public by past and current public officials? Why should millionaire moguls benefit at the expense of the rest of our community? Why were these issues ignored when they were first raised?
The threats to our fiscal future caused by the missing $6 million are severe. Unless these monies are returned to the city, ordinary taxpayers will be on the hook to pay back the federal government the full $6 million plus interest. This could result in over $14 million owed back to the federal government, which would smack taxpayers with a massive property tax hike.
The people of Mount Vernon deserve the truth, they deserve justice, and they deserve their money back. The city and the URA are finally setting new standards and fighting for you. We understand that public service is a privilege and it’s our judgment that the sacrifice is always for the greater good.
See the full court filing here.