By Jill Terreri
The claim that the city has had to repay funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been repeated at least twice by Republican mayoral candidate Sergio R. Rodriguez during recent debates.
"Because of this mayor's lack of administrative capabilities, we had to return money to HUD," Rodriguez said Tuesday.
It is true that the city has a checkered history in spending HUD funds stretching back three administrations, detailed in this explosive audit from 2011.
"The City is not able to demonstrate that it made the best use of CDBG funds to meet the community's needs," is one memorable line.
The audit demands repayment of $500,000, and recommends justifying the spending of $24 million more, or return it.
But the city "did not have to return any funds to HUD," agency spokesman Adam Glantz said today.
When HUD determined that certain activities were ineligible for HUD funding, the city had to use its own funding for those, Glantz said. The federal funds could then be used on other, eligibile activities, he said.
UPDATE: Rodriguez's campaign has brought my attention to this Investigative Post story from July 2012, which states: "Auditors recommended the city repay nearly $500,000 in funds," and that HUD Buffalo office Director of Community Planning and Development William O’Connell said "about $100,000 has since been returned by the city and the balance is the subject of ongoing review."
The question I posed to HUD this week was whether the city has had to pay back funds since 2006, and I got the unequivocal response from Glantz above. I'll follow up with him to clarify further, but likely won't have an answer until after Labor Day.