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Posted on February 21 at 5:02 p.m.
Joni Gray is proving to be a liability to the County.
On Supes Mull Options over Shuttered Shelter
Posted on February 21 at 10:43 a.m.
1. Joni Gray has a genuine interest in helping the homeless2. Joni Gray was unaware of a conflict of interest of being a County Board Supervisor and being on the board of the LHCDC3. Joni Gray is unfamiliar with County contract process4. Joni Gray was unaware that she should have recluse herself from setting County policy over the operations of LHCDC while participating in numerous deliberations by the County Board of Supervisors5. The Auditor-Controller Office, Office of Recorder-Assessors, Department of Housing and Community Development and County CEO were unaware of County Board of Supervisors deliberating on policy that directly impacted LHCDC6. Joni Gray, Recorder-Assessors and Auditor-Controller were unaware that the LHCDC stopped filing annual reports with the Department of Housing and Community Development since 20077. Dept. of Housing and Community Development failed to communicate to Joni Gray, the City of Lompoc, Recorder-Assessors Office, Auditor-Controller Office, and in passing, to other members of the Board of Supervisors that annual reports were not being filed by the LHCDC 8. Joni Grey was unaware that her husband, George Wittenburg, was listed as the attorney on file for LHCDC9. Joni Gray was unaware that it was a conflict of interest for her husband to conduct business of the LHCDC10. Joni Gray was unaware that her executive assistant, Susan Warnstrom, was conducting LHCDC business from Joni’s office on county time11. It’s relatively simple to obtain tax exemption from the Recorder-Assessor’s Office for the purchase of 36 parcels of Lompoc real estate, and for 19 other projects either already built or in the works12. Once tax exemption has been granted by Recorder-Assessors Office no more annual reporting, registrations or certifications are required by the Office 13. One only needs to submit a request to the Recorder-Assessor’s Office for the re-zoning of real property and its granted14. It’s relatively easy to go into commercial real estate development undetected by the Recorder-Assessors Office, the Auditor-Controller Office and the Department of Housing and Community Development. 15. Once tax exemption has been granted, all subsequent real property is grandfathered in as tax exempt.16. Its is not a requirement in County contracts for audited financial statements from grant recipients17. Its is not a requirement in County contracts for sound accounting systems from grant recipients18. Former councilmember Jan Keller, former city attorney Sharon Stuart, and former economic development officer Kate Griffith began asking very pointed questions about Lompoc Housing as early as 2003, and were not stone-walled19. LHCDC was forthcoming in providing tax returns, bylaws, articles of incorporation, financial statements, or any records showing what had been done with the public money it had already received.20. It is publicly known who has been on the LHCDC board of directors
Posted on February 20 at 11:45 a.m.
In all fairness, there has been a system failure and the County bureaucracy is designed so that the misappropriation of funds does not occur. The system has brought attention onto itself and it falls amongst the community to review the process in the system, and identify where the process failed. Doing nothing about it does not make it go away, nor would it correct itself.
The bureaucracy is designed so that business cannot be conducted in an isolated manner: in a vacuum. In order for any business to be conducted requires the functions of separate departments that contribute to the whole. The LHCDC calls attention to the process in the system. If the County where a clock, how would the cog that is the Recorder-Assessors, revolve with the cog that is the County CEO, with the cog that is Contracts, with the cog that is the Auditor-Controller, with the cog that is the City of Lompoc, with the cog that is LHCDC?
Follow the paper trail (or lack there of) of required legal filings from inception to demise? Its only more than 10 years of history?
Posted on February 19 at 7:40 p.m.
No other party other than LHCDC has been implicated and this is typical of damage control. Isolate the problem, and make it appear like incompetance. Government is set up with processes and controls in order to identify irregularities and inconsistencies. The fact that this scandal went on for so long and the City of Lompoc and the many others that spent countless hours attempting to notify County government over the years gives the appearance of a concerted effort to suppress the alarms.
Here we have a corporation that was able to obtain tax exempt status, real estate that was re-zoned, a non-profit that purchased a theatre, and allegedly the Recorder-Assessor's Office didn't notice, and wasn't interested in levying taxes on real property that no longer meets non-profit purpose. Everytime LHCDC purchased property that clearly didn't meet the purpose of their mission statement should have been questioned by the Recorder-Assessors Office. It's doubtful that the Auditor-Controller would have addressed this scandal had the LHCDC not closed the shelters.
Perhaps, if we discuss the required filing requirements of the Recorder-Assessors, and the required financial reporting in the contracts we can see where the system failed. I find it hard to believe that Joni Grey duped the government without assistance.
Anyone know the process to obtain tax exempt status? What happens everytime new real estate is added to the balance sheet, and the requirements of the Recorder-Assessors to remain tax exempt?
Posted on February 19 at 9:29 a.m.
What shoudl be addressed is whether it was legal for the County of Santa Barbara to create a corporation, and operated the corporation with County staff from the Office of Joni Grey.
Federal and State funds have passed through the County to the City of Lompoc into the LHCDC. The accounting records show money going into the corporation, but there are no records where most of the money went. Crimes have been committed.
The Auditor-Controller Office should provide a report how the system broke-down and where controls have been compromised. If not, then the Office of Auditor-Controller should also be investigated as a possible accomplice to the cover-up.
There should be a grand jury investigation, and an effort to recall Joni Grey and Joe Holland, the County Recorder-Assessor, an elected official.
Anyone know how the Recorder-Assessor stays in office?
He's added to the election ballot with no one contesting him, and so he automatically is re-elected.
Without a change in the leadership the corruption will continue.
Posted on February 17 at 3:48 p.m.
If it can be demonstrated that it is illegal for the County of Santa Barbara to operate a corporation, is there the likelyhood that the contracts between the City of Lompoc and LHCDC are deemed null and void?
On Stupid, Inept, or Corrupt?
Posted on February 17 at 8:53 a.m.
Not much outrage from the public. Its disheartening that the 800lb. gorilla may go un-noticed.
What would be the argument that the County of Santa Barbara did not operate the LHCDC?
Below is a quote from the article in the Santa Maria Sun:“Citibank filed a second lawsuit against the nonprofit in November, listing the city of Lompoc as a defendant because officials allocated thousands of dollars to LHCDC through the city’s redevelopment agency.”
It would seem appropriate to file the law suit against the County of Santa Barbara and not the City of Lompoc. Lompoc was the pass-through from the County to the County operated corporation. Lompoc was contracted with the County and with LHCDC to payout redevelopment funds to LHCDC.
One would expect the Recorder-Assessors office to question the tax exempt status of a commercial real estate enterprise, and justly attempt to levy property taxes and question the real nature of its purpose.
The control set in place for the people to regain the power is through the instrument of a Recall. A recall is effective in rooting out corruption, and those to recall would be the District Supervisor and the Recorder-Assessor. Under a new leadership there is a likely chance that the corruption would be rooted out.
Posted on February 16 at 9:40 a.m.
Could prove quite valuable to open a Facebook page for LHCDC, and chronicle this drama, if it hasn't already been created.
Posted on February 16 at 8:38 a.m.
Amy Asman’s write up on the LHCDC can be found in the Santa Maria Sun that published February 10, 2012. I’ll post the link if anyone is interested in following this story since its been going on for more than 10 years under the cover of the politically connected.
How did we get here?
‘This kind of evasiveness from people involved with LHCDC is nothing new; it’s been chronicled, as has the organization’s financial troubles, at board meetings, in court documents, and by media countywide.
LHCDC—and the millions of dollars it received in federal and state grants—has been a popular topic among the upper echelon of local government and public service agencies for years. But the issue didn’t enter the public sphere until within the last year.’...http://www.santamariasun.com/cover/7787/what-do-you-do-with-a-problem-like-lhcdc/
To try and put this into perspective, it is appearing that a county operated corporation that was granted tax exempt status partnered up with the City of Lompoc to receive favorable funding arraingments to receive Federal dollars.
The County operated corporation, under the leadership of District Supervisor Joni Grey, received favorable treatment from County government to go into contract with the City of Lompoc, and pass through federal and state funds paid to the County, contracted to the City of Lompoc for the benefit of the county operated corporation. Now the City of Lompoc is left holding the liability because it paid to LHCDC what it was instructed to do under the leadership of the District Supervisor.
'At a City Council meeting on Dec. 6, 2011, several Lompoc residents lamented the lack of accountability and government oversight when dealing with LHCDC.“People have been asking about LHCDC for 10 years, and the general attitude was that it was a ‘hands-off’ organization,” said Joyce Howerton, who served as mayor of Lompoc from 1992 to 1998. “At some point, everyone’s got to get honest about this. ... You need to lay it out so everyone understands what happened and what’s happening and what’s going to be happening.”
How was it that the ‘hands-off organization’ approach was conveyed to City staffers? From where did this leadership originate?
Posted on February 15 at 11:06 a.m.
Friends don't let friends drink and post on FB
On Rebuked, But Not Removed
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum will celebrates its 11th annual benefit. ... Read More
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