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Councilman continues accusations

Accusations that Ironton misappropriated federal grant money are based on Internet maps that could be inaccurate, Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization community development director Ralph Kline told Ironton City Council Thursday.

Friday, August 13, 1999

Accusations that Ironton misappropriated federal grant money are based on Internet maps that could be inaccurate, Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization community development director Ralph Kline told Ironton City Council Thursday.

But, Ironton City Council members Hugh Scott and Bob Vaughn both said they believe the maps cannot be wrong.

"There’s not one disclaimer on that (web) site," Vaughn said at Thursday’s regular city council meeting. "There will be an investigation."

The maps, located at the HUD site at http://proxylm.hud.gov, show amounts, city names and areas where dollars are spent, Vaughn said. The areas are represented by dots on each map segment.

The concerns about HUD grant management stem from comments made during the June 24 council meeting, during which Scott accused the city of "misappropriating funds for years."

But, one dot on a map cannot properly show funds given to more than 30 households, as is the case with one print-out provided by Vaughn, Kline said.

And, there are other inconsistencies in the map as well, he added. One map designates that the grant was received by the City of Ironton, but the money was in fact received by Lawrence County and was only spent at a county facility that is located within city limits, he explained.

If the money had been misappropriated, one of several city, county, state or in-house audits would have caught the discrepancies before now, Kline said.

Instead, the problem likely stems from a miscommunication somewhere between Ironton, Columbus and Washington, D.C., he said.

To truly investigate the possibility that some monies were misspent, council should start at the source, councilman and city finance committee chairman Joe Black said.

"Instead of quibbling over the location of dots on maps, in my opinion, it would be to the best interest of the citizens of Ironton if we had hard copies of the grant documents and started from there," Black said. "If there is misappropriation of funds, I will be one of the first in line to say that something should be done, but there are better ways to go about an investigation into the matter."

The city will not dismiss claims of misuse, no matter what the basis, if the accusations could be true, Ironton Mayor Bob Cleary said.

"Any time a city official believes funds or grant dollars have been misused by the city, it is a serious accusation," Cleary said. "This is certainly something that the city has a responsibility to investigate, and we will do so through the proper channels. With the help of Mr. Kline and the CAO, we will certainly start at the beginning in an attempt to determine where the breakdown in communications has occurred, and if it is discovered these claims are accurate, we will take the necessary measures from that point."

The CAO, under current contractual agreements with the city, will provide any information that does not breach client confidentiality, Kline told council members.

"We have an open door policy, and we are more than willing to give anyone an appointment and sit down with them to go over whatever information is needed to allay these concerns," Kline said. "I only ask that proper procedure is followed."