All Politics is Local

Levanen suspects something fishy with federal funds spent in Clark County

Carol Levanen thinks there's something fishing going on with how the county spends federal funds.

Carol Levanen thinks there’s something fishing going on with how the county spends federal funds.

At this week’s Clark County council hearing, Councilor Julie Olson had a message for Carol Levanen, the executive secretary of property rights group Clark County Citizens United: The county isn’t misappropriating federal funds.

What set off the exchange was the council’s discussion of the Clark County Department of Community Services plan for its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds. Both are federal programs that are used to fund community development facilities and projects, such as affordable housing.

After the plan was discussed, Levanen used the public comment period to raise what she said were red flags over how the county intends to spend the money. She said that the staff report stated that the plan to spend the funds was developed by the Urban County Policy Board, a panel comprised of all the mayors of cities in Clark County (or their designees) with the exception of Vancouver.

But she pointed to how the report referred to the importance of the city of Vancouver in implementing the plan. She also referred to how plan stakes out a role for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, which serves Southwest Washington. She also noted how the funds would be used for aging readiness, healthy communities and other programs.

“Now we see just how this federal grant money intended for county and small communities is really spent,” she said.

“This report brushes over the real intent of these funds, but in reality they have been earmarked for the city of Vancouver and the Portland, Oregon metro area,” she said. “In addition, these funds will be used for socialistic programs that are contained in the 2016 comprehensive plan, which are now being appealed in Superior Court.”

She went on to suggest that Clark County is “misappropriating” the funds.

“Perhaps these actions should be reported to the federal government for review,” she said.

Olson did not appreciate her remarks.

“I’m a little bit flustered because I’m a little bit insulted by the accusations,” said Olson, who asked Michael Torres, a program manager in county’s Department of Community services to respond.

Torres responded that the county underwent two audits recently for how it spent the funds. He also said his department follows a detailed process for how it allocates the money.

“What I think I hear you saying is that these funds are spent in Clark County?” asked Councilor Eileen Quiring.

The answer from Torres was yes.

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