HUD grants city 60-day extension to respond to finding

The city of Pine Bluff has been granted an additional 60 days to respond to a request from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for documentation to support $279,000 in expenditures.

Patricia Campbell, a HUD Freedom of Information Act Liaison based in Fort Worth, Texas, confirmed Friday that the city had requested and received the 60-day extension.

A June 4 letter from HUD had given the city 30 days to submit its response to findings involving the city’s use of funds from the federal agency’s CDBG (community development block grant) and HOME programs for the 2012 program year.

“They sent us a written request stating that it would take longer to do the research,” Campbell said Friday, referring to city officials. “We felt that was reasonable and granted them an extra 60 days.”

The June 4 report said the city had “improperly spent” $199,907.89 and must either repay that amount or have its 2013 HUD funding cut by that amount. The report also requested documentation for an additional $279,161.23. Without the proper documentation, the report said, the city will be forced to repay that amount or have it cut from 2013 funding.

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Friday that she believes the extension will allow the city plenty of time to assemble the required documents.

“I think the extension will allow us the opportunity to do the extensive research to be able to locate the files to support the numbers,” she said.

Larry Matthews, interim director of the city’s Economic and Community Development department, said the department is working diligently to address the issue.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us on a few issues,” Matthews said. “We’re going through the process of researching the files and putting together a response. … That’s the mountain we face. We have to find out what actually happened, and how it relates to the HUD findings.