HUD subpoena asks city of Atlanta for records related to grant funds

Four federal agencies have issued subpoenas to officials at Atlanta City Hall.

Four federal agencies have issued subpoenas to officials at Atlanta City Hall.

A new federal subpoena to the city of Atlanta demands four years of documents related to a $1.8 million grant the city received during Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration.

The Oct. 11 subpoena was issued by the Inspector General of HUD, the nation’s housing agency. It is the fourth investigation of City Hall by a federal agency, and asks for purchase orders, contracts, bid packages, invoices, receipts and other documents reflecting charges or payments made with the grant money between April 2014 and Dec. 31, 2017.

More specifically the subpoena demands records in connection with The Center For Working Families, Inc., a shuttered organization that appears to have been a sub-recipient of the federal money. A statement from earlier this year on The Center for Working Families website said its board decided to cease operations “after a careful review of the organization’s finances, programs and sustainability.”

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Inspector General issues audits and handles potential criminal investigations. A separate HUD office manages civil violations.

HUD joins the Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on the list of federal agencies with active investigations of Atlanta City Hall. The city's procurement department has been a major focus of a DOJ corruption investigation.

The HUD subpoena also signals more trouble for the city’s Office of Grants Management.

In May, HUD called out Grants Management for “ongoing and systemic issues” administering the $23 million Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. In recent years, Grants Management left $41 million in federal HOPWA dollars unspent.

A civil HUD Departmental Enforcement Center investigation of Atlanta's HOPWA program is ongoing.

The subpoena seeks an array of records related to the federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides grants to state and local governments for affordable housing programs in low-income households.

HOME funds typically help people rehabilitate their properties, finance the purchase and rehabilitation of rental housing or provide tenant-based rental assistance.

A spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement that the inquiry predates her administration.

“Several months ago, Mayor Bottoms asked her senior staff to prioritize transformative changes to how the City manages grants, ensuring the funds are more effectively serving those in need, improving accountability, and streamlining the organizational structure,” the statement said.

The Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year issued subpoenas for records related to how the city has spent federally regulated airport funds. The subpoenas were issued after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that airport funds were used to pay outside lawyers working for the Reed administration on the city's response to the federal corruption probe.

Last month, the SEC also launched an investigation into disclosures about airport revenue that the city made as part of bond offerings.

City Council President Felicia Moore declined to comment on the latest subpoena, except to say that the increasing number of federal investigations is troubling.

“Overall, it’s concerning of course that we have had various federal agencies subpoena records from the city,” Moore said. “I hope this is the last.”