Jamie Dupree’s Washington Insider blog details how the Justice Department says city officials were “unable to document how money was used, and in some cases never gave investigators any answers.”
The goal of the program is to “weed out” crime and in turn “seed” neighborhood revitalization. The grant money in question was paid to the city between 2007-2010.
According to the blog at WSBRadio.com, the report questions that close to $400,000 of the $1.1 million in grants were possibly not spent according to federal guidelines. The entire report, which can be found here, concluded that the city made it difficult for the government to even put together it’s findings:
"We began the audit on September 21, 2011, but most of the documents we requested in advance were not provided for weeks or months. Some documents we requested were never provided. Over the course of the audit we followed up dozens of times with phone calls and e-mails. The city’s Weed and Seed Director sometimes did not respond to us for weeks or provided incomplete or incorrect information. Some of our questions pertaining to a payment to a former city employee were never answered."
With regards to how money from the grants was processed and spent, the Justice Department said the city "did not have or did not follow internal controls."
The City has released a statement on the Department of Justice's report, noting that "most of the findings in the DOJ audit occurred between 2007-2010, before the stewardship of the city by Mayor Kasim Reed and his Administration."
The statement from the City:
"The City of Atlanta takes the findings of a U.S. Department of Justice audit regarding possible mismanagement of grant funds in its “Weed and Seed” program very seriously. City officials have already responded to DOJ officials about the audit’s findings.
"Based on his initial review, Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard detailed the areas in which the city disagreed with some of the audit’s findings in a written response. (see attached). Mr. Beard also acknowledged there might have been some discrepancies regarding the city’s use of allowable expenses in the amount of approximately $75,000.
"We remain committed to working with our federal partner to reconcile the audit’s findings. City officials will once again review the DOJ report to ensure we are adhering to its grant guidelines. We also will comply with any further recommendations within the 120-day allowable timeframe outlined by the DOJ in its final report.
"Moving forward, the city’s compliance audit functions will be centralized in the Office of Grant Compliance, which is in the Department of Finance, to ensure adherence to all grant guidelines and timely responsiveness to inquiries.
"It should be noted that most of the findings in the DOJ audit occurred between 2007-2010, before the stewardship of the city by Mayor Kasim Reed and his Administration.
"The objective of the City of Atlanta’s Weed and Seed program was to prevent and control crime by 5 percent annually in the program’s targeted communities of Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, English Avenue and Vine City by focusing on the areas of law enforcement, crime prevention and neighborhood revitalization. Weed and Seed was an important program, but represented only a fraction of the city’s public safety and community revitalization spending.
"The Reed Administration has focused its public safety investments in recruiting and training the largest police force in the city’s history and launching public safety programs such as a more robust community-oriented police unit, referred to as ‘COPS.’ As a result, violent crime is down across the city by 17 percent since January 2010, when Mayor Reed was inaugurated.
"From 2009 to 2013, in the Pittsburgh and Mechanicsville neighborhoods, crime is down 42 and 35 points, respectively. In English Avenue and Vine City, major crimes are down 51% and 50%, respectively, between 2007-2011. As such, the city’s Weed and Seed program was de-funded in the FY2014 budget and no longer operates."