Feds cite Colorado Springs government for mismanaging $9.2 M in housing grants | VailDaily.com

Feds cite Colorado Springs government for mismanaging $9.2 M in housing grants

Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs may have to repay more than $9 million in federal housing funds after an audit revealed mismanagement in two grant programs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General released reports Tuesday on audits that showed oversight issues, mismanagement of funds and paperwork that was altered or poorly kept, reported The Gazette.

The Colorado Springs housing division must provide documentation to show how it spent nearly $9.2 million of federal funds or pay it back.

The recent reports reviewed the city's use of money from the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which is used to rehabilitate, buy and build affordable housing. The report also analyzed how the city used money received from the Community Development Block Grant program, which supports improving low or moderate income areas.

The reports stated that the city committed money to more than 50 projects that lacked proper documentation. They also said the city spent $6 million for salary and project costs that are unaccounted for and spent $3.1 million on projects that did not have complete environmental reviews.

Aimee Cox, manager of the city's housing and community initiatives division, said officials identified some of the issues listed in the report based on a city audit initiated before the inspector general became involved.

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"But what the OIG (Office of Inspector General) did was really detail how many projects were impacted by this lack of policy and procedure."

If officials can resolve the unsupported costs detailed in the inspector general's findings over the next four months, then they may not have to pay the federal government back, Cox said.

DENVER

Body found Sunday in South Platte River in Denver

Denver police are recovering a body found in the South Platte River Sunday.

The Denver Post reports that it the second body found in the river since last week, when the body of a man who fell into the river while tubing earlier in June was recovered.

This year at least 12 people have died in Colorado's rivers, which have been running high due to snow melt and this spring's heavy rain.

A 20-year-old drowned Saturday on a rafting trip on Clear Creek near Idaho Springs.

DENVER

Denver police stumped by car-share drive-by shooting

Denver police are stumped by a January drive-by shooting in which the suspects used fictitious names to rent Car2Go vehicles.

Detectives are having a hard time finding the drivers of two of the distinct white-and-blue cars from the Car2Go fleet, The Denver Post reported Sunday.

A witness saw the iconic Smart Fortwos models flee the scene after 22-year-old Daerius Churchill was gunned down on Jan. 4.

GPS tracking systems on the cars allow Car2Go to identify which cars are moving at any given time. However, the detective wrote in his affidavit that multiple cars had been rented under fictitious names through a call center.

The rentals, typically done through a smartphone app, show how the city's street gangs are adopting technology.

A surveillance camera at a business near the scene of the attack recorded three of the vehicles in the area, documents state.

Car2Go customers typically pick up the cars from public parking spaces, use cellphone apps to get them started and then leave the car in public areas when they are finished using it. The renters never come face-to-face with company employees.

The company told police it records phone conversations between its representatives and customers. It also logs caller ID numbers, the search warrant affidavit said.

Denver police Cmdr. Mark Fleecs, who oversees the department's gang bureau, said he could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Car2Go customers are vetted through an online application process, said Dacyl Armendariz, a company spokeswoman.

"It's not like just anybody can jump in a car and drive away," she said.

GRAND JUNCTION

Colorado Supreme Court to review bridge fee

The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to review a 2009 vehicle fee approved by state lawmakers in a case that could determine the fate of millions of dollars in transportation funding.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Colorado Bridge Enterprise and the fee that everyone in the state pays on every vehicle when their license registrations are renewed each year. That fee ranges from $13 to $32 depending on a vehicle's weight.

The Colorado Supreme Court agreed last week to hear an appeal of a lawsuit challenging the fee, The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel reported .

The 2012 lawsuit argues that the fee is actually a tax and therefore violates provisions of the voter-approved Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which require that all taxes be approved by voters.

Filed by the right-leaning TABOR Foundation against the Colorado Transportation Commission, the lawsuit also alleges that the enterprise was in violated for issuing bonds — something for which the bill also requires voter approval — and questions whether it qualifies as a stand-alone government-run business that is exempt from the provisions.

"Without a vote of the people, the Colorado Bridge Enterprise has created a new debt, levied new taxes, increased tax rates and instituted tax policy changes causing a net tax revenue gain to the Colorado Department of Transportation and the bridge enterprise," the lawsuit says. "By taking these actions without a vote of the people, defendants have violated the rights of plaintiff's members to vote on the imposition of new taxes and debt, as guaranteed by TABOR."

A Denver district court judge ruled in 2013 that the enterprise was constitutional, a decision upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals last year.

The foundation argues that because money collected by the enterprise is used only to fund repairs on the state's worst bridges that are located in 37 of 64 counties, it's a tax because residents in counties that have no bridges that would be repaired or replaced won't see any benefit.

But a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled that it doesn't work that way.

"Essentially, as long as a charge is reasonably related to the overall cost of providing the service and is imposed on those who are reasonably likely to benefit from or use the service, the charge is a fee and not a tax," Judge James Casebolt wrote in a unanimous Court of Appeals decision in August, which was joined by Judges Michael Berger and Jose Marquez.

The Colorado Transportation Commission is planning to use $850 million from the enterprise over the next 35 years to help pay for replacing the aging I-70 viaduct in Denver, a project that is expected to cost about $1.8 billion.