City offers $1.88M to settle federal spending concerns

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The Aloha Gardens Project is supposed to be an oasis for the disabled and elderly.

A major concern Housing and Urban Development had with one aspect of that project was a camp — its management and whether it was serving its intended use.

“The Pineapple Camp I think was a wonderfully designed program and when you look at it, it has bunk beds. And how could elderly people use bunk beds,” City Managing Director Ember Shinn said.

So Shinn says the city will try to cut its losses. Housing and Urban Development hasn’t agreed to the $1.88 million payback. But the city is hopeful, citing a corrective action plan: offering greater oversight of federal grants coming into the city, hoping to maintain a significant influx of cash.

“We learned for the first time that our CDBG Program was at risk to the tune of about $8 million. And that was a huge chunk for us because in the past, we’ve been getting somewhere around $10 million a year for the past few years,” Shinn said.

CDBG stands for Community Development Block Grant from HUD.

The city’s more than month-long investigation cost $80,000, and included reviewing ORI Anuenue Hawaii, or ORIAH, a non-profit, affiliated with the Aloha Gardens Project.

Shinn says the investigation was not as in-depth as it could have been.

“ORIAH, they lawyered up. So, they did not allow us to interview any of their folks. And they delayed in allowing us access to review their documents,” Shinn said.

Another concern HUD put forth in writing — converting loans to grants, which Shinn says dates back to the late 90s.

The Honolulu Ethics Commission is conducting its own separate investigation.

Shinn says the city wants to work with ORIAH in possible reimbursement of the nearly $2 million.

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