HUD, Housing Urban Development, Fleecing-Scandals

The truth and facts are in the details but details never seem to matter or to be an agenda stopper.

Is there just one government agency that operates without a scandal or fleecing the taxpayers? Housing and Urban Development is headed by Secretary Julian Castro and former mayor of San Antonio. By the way, his name has been floated as a candidate for Hillary’s running mate to ensure to Latino vote.

Obama himself has kept a close eye on Castro and is helping him build his resume for bigger political ambitions in spite of a history of scandals based in San Antonio.

HUD backs $9.5 million loan on property valued at $3.8 million

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. —The Department of Housing and Urban Development provided a $9.4 million loan guarantee to renovate an apartment complex here eight months after the owner convinced the county to value the complex at just $3.8 million, a investigation found.

The loan for Apollo Village Apartments defaulted and the property was foreclosed on in 2012 with HUD losing as much as $4.5 million on the deal, public trustee records show.

Pete Sepp, president of the National Union of Taxpayers, said these government programs put a substantial amount of taxpayer money at risk and should be eliminated.

“Unfortunately, many government loan programs to individual business people aren’t necessarily dictated by the best interests of taxpayers or the laws of the marketplace,” he said after reviewing information provided him on the loan. “It’s a classic dilemma we see with the federal subsidies programs.”

Instead of foreclosing, HUD sold the note to a private company for $5 million and the company foreclosed on the property six months later, selling the Apollo complex for $6.2 million – netting a $1.2 million profit the government could have realized to offset part of the loss, foreclosure and HUD records show.

“Apollo Village #101-11128 was insured by HUD through a 223f loan in the amount of $9,401,500.00 on March 23, 2009,” according to an email from Baumann.

The owner, represented by a Denver appraisal firm, filed a property tax appeal on May 27, 2008, and the County Board of Equalization reduced the value of the property from $7.199 million to $3.810 million on July 24, 2008, according to county records and the assessor’s office.

County records showed 36 units were condemned in 2008, and building permits for siding, roof and structural repairs were issued between 2009 and 2014.

HUD rules for market-rate apartments only allow the agency to guarantee 83.3 percent of the project’s value after the repairs are completed, which means HUD estimated the value of the repaired project to be about $11.3 million. Federal HUD officials said they did not have any appraisal information for the project, and the local office was looking to see if any documents were available. Read the report in full here.

There is more of course:

Why Are Over-Income Tenants Living in Public Housing?

A recent report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Office of Inspector General (OIG) and subsequent news articles have raised questions about the treatment of so-called “over-income” families living in federally assisted public housing. “Over-income” families had, at the time of their initial move-in, income low enough to be eligible to live in public housing (income at or below 80% of local area median income), but their incomes later increased above the eligibility threshold. The Inspector General report found that as many as 25,226 over-income families resided in public housing in 2014 (2.6% of all public housing residents). While the majority of over-income families had incomes that exceeded the initial income eligibility limits by less than $10,000, a small subset of families had incomes that were significantly higher.

As HUD has pointed out in its response to the OIG report, allowing over-income families to remain in public housing is not inconsistent with federal law or regulations. Read the report in total here.


But Cohen is a Democrat!

Has anyone attempted to look deeper at Trump’s team? We have a duty to look at all the candidates and their team. Earlier today on this site, we learned some peculiar details on Dr. Ben Carson.

Donald Trump’s Political ‘Pit Bull’: Meet Michael Cohen


DNA Tests Prove U.S. Getting Punked by Refugee Resettlement

Recent Somali immigrants Nur Ali, right, and his wife Mahado Mohamed, left, sit with their six children Shukri Shukri, from left, 9, one-week-old Ifrah Shukri, in her mother's arms, Ugbad Shukri, 7, Hafifa Shukri, 4, Antar Shukri, 10, and one-year-old Ikra Shukri in their apartment at Mary's Place transitional apartments in downtown Minneapolis. The family arrived in the United States four months ago, first landing in Connecticut before coming to Minnesota.

New Somali refugee arrivals in Minnesota are increasing

After a dip in 2008, a second wave of Somali refugees is arriving in the state. But with fewer family ties, this group faces a new set of challenges. 

Tales of the state’s large So­ma­li com­muni­ty had in­trigued them back in the Ken­yan ref­u­gee camp where they had mar­ried and had five chil­dren. Now, a So­ma­li man they met in Hartford told them all re­cent ar­ri­vals head to Minnesota, home of “Little Moga­dis­hu.”

After a major dip in 2008, the year­ly num­bers of new So­ma­li refu­gees in Minnesota have re­bounded stead­i­ly. The num­ber of So­malis re­set­tled in the state has more than trip­led in four years. As resettlements nationally have picked up, more So­malis are also arriving here after brief stints in other states — often trading early support from resettlement agencies for the company of more fellow Somalis.

“You tend to go some­where you can con­nect,” said Mo­ha­mud Noor, the head of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of So­ma­li Community in Minnesota. “Be­fore peo­ple even ar­rive from Af­ri­ca, they know they are com­ing to Minnesota.”

But without the Twin Cities family ties of earlier arrivals, these newcomers often can’t lean as heavily on longer-term Somali residents. Mary’s Place, a Minneapolis home­less shel­ter, has be­come ground zero for fami­lies like Ali and Mo­ha­med’s. Somali participation in the state’s public food assistance program doubled in the past five years. Meanwhile, the Minneapolis School District, its So­ma­li stu­dent en­roll­ment up 70 percent since 2011, launched eight class­rooms with in­struc­tion in both Eng­lish and So­ma­li to help new­comers catch up.

In some ways, Ali and Mo­ha­med have had a steep­er learn­ing curve than So­malis who set­tled in Minnesota in the 1990s and early 2000s. The cou­ple spent their en­tire a­dult lives in tents at Ken­ya’s sprawl­ing, over­crowd­ed Hagadera ref­u­gee camp. They didn’t have fam­i­ly or close friends who re­set­tled in America be­fore them, and their no­tion of life in the Unit­ed States was forged out of camp leg­end.

“We al­ways used to think when you come to America, you have a lot of mon­ey and life is re­al­ly easy,” Ali said through a trans­la­tor. “We have been sur­prised.”

Ali and Mohamed are part of a new wave of Somali refugees. Until 2008, the state resettled only refugees reuniting with family here.

But that year, DNA tests showed only about 20 percent of ap­pli­cants in a ref­u­gee fam­i­ly re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion program, most of them from Af­ri­ca, were ac­tu­al­ly re­lated to their stateside sponsors. The program was sus­pend­ed, even as So­malis ar­gued a broad­er defi­ni­tion of fam­i­ly was as much a factor as fraud. The num­ber of new So­ma­li ar­ri­vals plum­met­ed, from a high of more than 3,200 in 2006 to 180 in 2009.

Mean­while, more strin­gent back­ground checks for refu­gees in 2010 snarled the ap­pli­ca­tion proc­ess. Lar­ry Bart­lett, the U.S. Ref­u­gee Ad­mis­sions program di­rec­tor, says the stream­lin­ing of se­curi­ty checks since and the re­sump­tion of the fam­i­ly re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion program in 2012 led to the re­cent in­crease in So­ma­li ar­ri­vals — a trend he ex­pects to con­tin­ue in the next few years.

In the fis­cal year that end­ed in Sep­tem­ber, Minnesota wel­comed al­most 1,050 So­ma­li refu­gees ar­riv­ing di­rect­ly from Af­ri­ca, most of them with­out fam­i­ly ties to the state. Na­tion­al­ly, 9,000 So­malis were re­set­tled, up from about 2,500 in 2008.

No ‘out-migration’

The ex­act num­bers of So­malis moving to Minnesota from oth­er states are hard to track. But there’s little doubt their ranks have swelled, too. The federal Office of Ref­u­gee Resettlement com­piles partial numbers showing about 2,620 total ref­u­gee ar­ri­vals from oth­er states in 2013, up from 1,835 two years earli­er — making Minnesota the state with the high­est in-mi­gra­tion by far.

“This has al­ways been an is­sue for Minnesota,” said Kim Dettmer of Lutheran So­cial Service, one of the ag­en­cies that helps re­set­tle refu­gees who come di­rect­ly to Minnesota. “We have in-mi­gra­tion. We don’t re­al­ly have out-migration.”

Af­ter ar­riv­ing from Kampala, U­gan­da, Ayan Ahmed and her nine chil­dren, ages 4 to 18, spent six months in Phoe­nix. There, Catholic Charities had lined up a fur­nished four-bed­room home for the fam­i­ly and a neu­rol­o­gist for Ahmed’s eld­est son, who is blind.

But then, some fi­nan­cial sup­port Ahmed re­ceived as a ref­u­gee was about to dry up, and she wor­ried about cov­er­ing her $1,200 rent. Most So­ma­li fami­lies she met in Phoe­nix were longtime resi­dents, the strug­gles of ad­just­ing to a new coun­try long behind them. They urged her to go to Minnesota and raised mon­ey for the plane tick­ets.

Ahmed, who is staying at Mary’s Place, says local Somalis have picked up groceries and takeout food for her, and lent a compassionate ear: “Some days, I feel I stayed in Mogadishu.”

Challenges for newcomers

Ali, a five-month preg­nant Mo­ha­med and their kids ar­rived in Minneapolis four months ago with­out a de­tailed plan. They had used up most of their ref­u­gee cash pay­ments for the plane tick­ets.

At the air­port, they met a So­ma­li cabdriver who of­fered to drive them to Village Market, a So­ma­li mall in south Minneapolis. The fam­i­ly went to the mosque in­side the mall, prayed and asked for help. A So­ma­li fam­i­ly agreed to put them up for the night and took them to Mary’s Place the next day. There, the couple, their five older children and new­born daugh­ter sleep on three bunk beds in their tidy a­part­ment.

In some ways, things are look­ing up: Ali is tak­ing Eng­lish class­es and re­cent­ly found a full-time job as a butch­er in a ha­lal mar­ket. They have health in­sur­ance and food stamps. But they have found they can rely only so much on local So­malis, who are busy with their own lives. And saving up en­ough mon­ey to move into their own place is an elu­sive goal that weighs heav­i­ly on Ali.

With lim­it­ed ties to the local So­ma­li com­muni­ty, re­cent So­ma­li ar­ri­vals face a new set of chal­len­ges. Community lead­ers say it used to be un­think­a­ble that a So­ma­li fam­i­ly should land in a home­less shel­ter: New­comers could in­voke the most tenu­ous fam­i­ly con­nec­tion to move into famously hospitable So­ma­li homes in­def­i­nite­ly.

But these days long­er-term resi­dents re­cov­er­ing from the re­ces­sion might balk at put­ting up com­plete strang­ers. Mean­while, af­ford­a­ble hous­ing for large fami­lies is scarce, es­pe­cial­ly in Hennepin County.

Ironically, community activists such as Abdirizak Bihi say, these newcomers might need more support than earlier arrivals. Many have spent most of their lives in makeshift camps such as Qabri Bayah in Ethiopia, with basic amenities and limited access to formal education.

When these refugees move too soon after arriving in a different state, they get cut off from resettlement agencies there responsible for finding homes and jobs for them. Noor, whose group tries to assist newcomers with navigating the transition, says the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment needs to do more to dis­cour­age this early migration. At the U.S. State Department, Bart­lett says staff members strive to honor refu­gees’ host city pref­er­ence. Some refu­gees even sign a docu­ment af­firm­ing they are going to the city where they want to stay.

“The prob­lem with mov­ing quick­ly is that the bene­fits don’t al­ways fol­low you,” Bart­lett said. “We re­al­ly try to im­press that upon them.”

Adjusting to the influx

Mary Jo Cope­land, the found­er of Mary’s Place, says as many as 60 of the shel­ter’s rough­ly 90 units are oc­cu­pied by So­ma­li fami­lies, gen­er­al­ly re­cent ar­ri­vals from Af­ri­ca by way of an­oth­er state. Cope­land, who hired two So­ma­li-speak­ing ad­vo­cates to help the fami­lies with job- and a­part­ment-hunt­ing and more, says these resi­dents have im­pressed her: They take Eng­lish class­es, keep their apart­ments im­mac­u­late and save up ev­er­y­thing they earn work­ing at day cares, gro­cer­ies and cab com­panies.

“You name the state, they are from all over,” she said. “As soon as they move out, oth­ers move in.”

The num­ber of So­ma­li adults and children who participated in the state’s fam­i­ly cash as­sist­ance program jumped 34 percent from 2008 to 2013, to 5,950. At the same time, food as­sist­ance participation increased 98 percent, to 17,300 adults and children, which does not include U.S.-born Somalis. Census numbers place the Minnesota Somali community at more than 33,000, a count Somali leaders say underestimates its size by tens of thousands.

The Minneapolis School District responded to a ma­jor up­tick in new So­ma­li stu­dents by launching the NABAD program, an ac­ro­nym that’s also a greet­ing in So­ma­li. The dis­trict is al­most 10 percent So­ma­li this fall. The new class­rooms — two last year, eight this fall af­ter prom­is­ing early re­sults — fea­ture an English language learn­er teach­er and a So­ma­li-speak­ing aide. Students spend a school year there be­fore join­ing the main­stream.

At Andersen United Community School, teach­er Stephany Jallo and her third- through fifth-graders re­cent­ly went over a pic­ture book called “Nabeel’s New Pants,” about a group of kids who re­ceive clothes as gifts to wear for the Is­lam­ic hol­i­day Eid. At each of Jallo’s ques­tions, hands shot up. Oth­er stu­dents looked to Ham­di Ahmed, a visit­ing co-teach­er, who trans­lat­ed into So­ma­li.

Jallo says four of her 20 stu­dents came with no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, but most are mak­ing rapid prog­ress: “I have no doubt I have fu­ture doc­tors, law­yers, teach­ers and sci­en­tists in my class.”

Ali and Mo­ha­med’s kids also have ac­a­dem­ic catch­ing up to do. These days, the par­ents wor­ry about af­ford­ing win­ter coats, an a­part­ment and fur­ni­ture. But when they see their kids crack­ing open their home­work min­utes af­ter get­ting home — the glass facade of Tar­get Field gleam­ing be­yond the kitch­en win­dow — Ali and Mo­ha­med’s faces fill with hope.

Census Bureau, Fleecing Taxpayers

It was immediate in the Obama administration that the White House took control, the first time ever of the Census Bureau. The motivation for that decision will be under scrutiny and debated for a long time, but the fleecing of the taxpayer seeped into that agency as well.

John Fund, WSJ: President Obama said in his inaugural address that he planned to “restore science to its rightful place” in government. That’s a worthy goal. But statisticians at the Commerce Department didn’t think it would mean having the director of next year’s Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary, as is customary. “There’s only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement,” a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. “And it’s called politics, not science.”

The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn’t be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had “serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count.”

Anything that threatens the integrity of the Census has profound implications. Not only is it the basis for congressional redistricting, it provides the raw data by which government spending is allocated on everything from roads to schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the Census to prepare the economic data that so much of business relies upon. “If the original numbers aren’t as hard as possible, the uses they’re put to get fuzzier and fuzzier,” says Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census in the 1980s.

Mr. Chapman worries about a revival of the effort led by minority groups after the 2000 Census to adjust the totals for states and cities using statistical sampling and computer models. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Department of Commerce v. U.S. House that sampling could not be used to reapportion congressional seats. But it left open the possibility that sampling could be used to redraw political boundaries within the states. More here.

Watchdog finds widespread fraud at U.S. Census Bureau

WashingtonExaminer: Dozens of government employees at the U.S. Census Bureau have been billing taxpayers for time they never actually worked, wasting more than $1 million.

The 40 officials were supposed to be performing background checks on the census personnel who walk door-to-door throughout the country to collect information about Americans. Instead, they “engaged in pervasive misconduct over several years,” according to an investigation by the Commerce Department’s inspector general.

The watchdog found at least one employee in the Census Bureau’s employment office who “used his official position as a personal hiring vehicle for friends and their families.”

That employee, who was not identified, “was involved in a sexual relationship” with a contractor he personally interviewed, hired and supervised.

He also launched a year-long campaign to get a job at the Census Bureau for his friend’s son, an effort that was apparently unsuccessful.

The inspector general found that dozens of employees claimed to have worked at least 19,162 hours during which they actually did not work at all between 2010-14. The “time and attendance abuse” drained nearly $1.1 million.

But after a whistleblower alerted the agency watchdog to the billing scheme, census officials attempted to “intimidate” anyone who was cooperating with the inspector general investigation.

Another unnamed employee repeatedly called the whistleblower a “coward” and a “chickens—,” among other names.

“At an office social event held for a [census employment office] employee, this employee held a knife in his hand to cut the cake and, while making a stabbing motion with his arm, said something to the effect of, ‘This is for who went to the OIG!'” the inspector general said.

Other employees of the office lied to investigators from the watchdog’s office, violating federal laws that bar officials from making false statements to inspectors general.

Beyond the widespread misconduct, the watchdog found “disturbing” evidence that many staff members were not performing adequate background checks on the prospective employees and contractors of the Census Bureau. For example, the inspector general discovered the staff had shared among themselves their boss’ password, allowing them to sign off on their own work rather than have it verified by management.

John Thompson, director of the Census Bureau, said in a statement the employees implicated in the watchdog report “are being placed immediately on administrative leave pending further action.”

“The employee misconduct detailed in the recent Department of Commerce Inspector GeneraI’s report is inexcusable and will not be tolerated,” Thompson said. “Any employees who allegedly falsified timesheets and betrayed the trust of the American public will be held personally accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including possible termination.”


Update: Conditions of Voting Machines

What can you do?

  1. Take the class to be a poll worker
  2. Call your State Secretary, ask hard questions, get documentation, never believe the first answer.
  3. Investigate machines in your district or state, irregularities should be reported to the State Attorney General.

Voting machine study finds problems – but not ones easily fixed

Across the country, aging computerized voting machines nearing end of useful life

43 states set to use machines that will be at least 10 years old

Estimated cost to upgrade voting machines at $1 billion

Read more here: