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Cairo Town Board sued over HUD grant controversy

Jul 22, 2022 1:00 am

Andrea Macko is reporting for Porcupine Soup the members of the Cairo Town Board have been sued alleging they each acted illegally in awarding a $50,000 grant to the Cairo Development Foundation. At the July 20 town board meeting, attorney Monica Kenny-Keff served the town supervisor and individual members of the board on behalf of her clients, plaintiffs Emmy Cross and Mountainview Enterprises, a company owned by Keff’s husband, Chris Keff. The matter was filed in response to the town board's vote on March 7, to disburse U.S. Housing and Urban Development Residential Rehabilitation Grant funds that had been sitting idle in the town coffers for decades. Three applicants, Cross, Mountainview Enterprises and the Cairo Development Foundation, were awarded money, but not in the amounts recommended by Delaware Engineering. Delaware had advised town officials that Cross should receive $18,576, Mountainview Enterprises $17,118 and the CDF, $22,680. But the board opted instead to give Cross and Mountainview Enterprises each slightly less than $6,000, and $50,000 to the development foundation. The lawsuit alleges the funds were given to the CDF based on "...personal conflicts of interest, and personal and political interests ..." According to court papers, the plaintiffs allege, “CDF publicly endorsed and campaigned” for Town Supervisor Jason Watts, and board members Michael Flaherty, and Mary Jo Cords in their runs for public office, alleging the board's action was illegal. The town of Cairo and the CDF were also named in the case filed in the State Supreme Court in Greene County on July 18. The original HUD grant, in the amount of $400,000, was awarded to the town in 1998 and was to be distributed under HUD guidelines to low-income residents for home improvements. Property owners who rent to low-income tenants were also eligible to apply. It was discovered in 2015, by then-Supervisor Ted Banta, that roughly $60,000 of grant funds remained unspent. The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction against the town, Watts, Flaherty, Debra Bogins, and Cords to prohibit "the release or disbursement of the grant funds at issue pending [the] order of the court.” They also request that the court order the town to disburse the funds following the recommendations made by Delaware Engineering. Read the full story at porcupinesoup [dot] com.

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