in Houston, Texas
La Marque now can’t account for up to $2 million in Hurricane Ike disaster aid
Monday, Aug 20, 2012, 03:06PM CST
By Curt Olson
toilet

Hurricane Ike left a lot of damage in its wake, and that now includes La Marque city officials who can’t account for up to $2 million in post-Ike federal disaster money and for projects that received funding but weren’t completed.

City leaders at the time did not earmark money to specific accounts to cover Ike damage in the city. The city may be required to return money to the feds, the Galveston Daily News reports.

Mayor Bobby Hocking says the early indication is the money is still in city coffers, but that he suspects city leaders used part of the post-Ike federal disaster funds to balance the city budget. The amount in question amounts to almost two-thirds of the total $3.23 million received by the city.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. We have a lot of smoke. How big the fire is, I don’t know,” Hocking was reported as saying.

City Emergency Management Coordinator Jennifer Pierce said she was alerted to discrepancies by inspectors with the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The Daily News detailed these questionable projects:

  • The repair of the roof at the city public works building using $12,000 in insurance proceeds and $5,000 in federal disaster aid. City records show the money was spent, but the project was never completed.
  • The replacement of the city’s redwood welcome sign on state Highway 3. The city received $3,071 and has a work order showing the work was completed. But as of Friday when a reporter checked, the sign was not up.

In other cases, projects were completed under budget, but the city did not return the excess money to the feds as required.

The spending missteps couldn’t come at a worse time. City council members were briefed last month on options to close a $1 million shortfall as they plan the 2012-13 city budget.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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