Federal Government Taking Back $700,000 In Grants From City Of Tulsa

Thursday, January 17th 2013, 10:02 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The federal government is taking back $700,000 in grant money from the City of Tulsa, blaming poor management, and is telling the city to change how it works.

It's money supplied by federal taxes, spent on local projects selected by the city.

The feds say Tulsa selected poorly, giving money to groups that couldn't do what they promised.

Tulsa's leaders are trying to make sure it doesn't keep happening.

The Shoppes on Peoria looks like any other venture of private enterprise, but the fact is this shopping center was built with your tax money.

12/9/2012 Related Story: The Shoppes On Peoria AimsTo Pump Money Back Into Tulsa's North Side

And $705,000 of the cost - that was from a federal grant - will now instead come from city sales tax money that would otherwise be spent on basic government services.

The City Council hashed out how that happened in a meeting where the grants department blamed the people who got the money, while the city Council blamed poor oversight by the city grants department.

"I'm wondering why, my constituents are wondering why," said City Councilor Jeannie Cue.

The feds blame the city for giving money to groups that can't finish the job. In their words, the city "poorly managed" the grants and said Tulsa "has a pattern" of selecting unqualified recipients.

"Some of these paybacks we're looking at go back years and years," said City Manager Jim Twombly.

Read HUD's Letter To The City Of Tulsa

The feds have taken back $7 million from Tulsa over the last 40 years of the grants.

During that time, Oklahoma City hasn't had to pay back a dime because of uncompleted projects.

"And if they can't complete them, due to any reason, then we need to know that so that money can be re-allotted. They can always reapply," Cue said.

The Shoppes project was built and the other projects will be, too, because the city plans to make up the shortage with money from other departments.

"In other cases, what we do is take general fund money and put it back into the CDBG or home program, that's how we pay it back," Twombly said.

The changes demanded by the feds went through council for the first time Thursday night.

The new processes have to be approved by the end of the month to meet a deadline or risk losing more money.