Tag Archives: Lisa Kuzela

The City of Cedar Rapids, IA, Did Not Ensure a Competitive Procurement Process and Did Not Properly Execute Its CDBG Disaster Recovery-Funded Contracts


information

Lisa Kuzela

PRESS RELEASE —-

From Lisa Kuzela to Cedar Rapids to local media –

Attached is the May 6, 2013 HUD Office of Inspector General Report.

It states “The State did not monitor the City’s voluntary property acquisition program in accordance with its approved Disaster Recovery action plans. Its monitoring checklists did not include all of its procurement requirements, such as cost reasonableness and all required contract provisions.”

In other words, the City of Cedar Rapids has done whatever they wanted, and the State turned a blind eye. Could it possibly have something to do with the local relationships at the state level?

I don’t care to know why you didn’t cover this huge issue; I just want our local news media to start informing the public on what is really going on in this town.

Once the fraud and illegalities crash in on our town, our local media will be viewed as accomplices to this corruption. Many of us have told you over and over, but the media chose to ignore the facts.

Worse, our newspaper continues to take even proof of wrongdoings by our city and spin it into something positive. Case in point: the October 2012 HUD OID Report.

Rick Smith reported statements of deceit by Mayor Ron Corbett. He included Corbett as stating “there is no fraud.” The report never even eluded to such, but by including the Mayor as stating so, Smith led the public to believe everything is fine.

Office of Inspector General

Office of Inspector General

Smith further misled the public by not including something as simple and informative as the subject title of the report:

The City of Cedar Rapids, IA, Did Not Ensure a Competitive Procurement Process and Did Not Properly Execute Its CDBG Disaster Recovery-Funded Contracts.”

The question is: are you going to continue to ignore? Are you going to continue your denial and worse – chastise those of us speaking out with the truth as “naysayers?”

OR are you going to do what they taught you in journalism school and report the news?

This is only the beginning!

(This must be why Karr, Swore, Shields and Corbett bullied me at the May 14th, 2013 council meeting. They were angry at me about this Report that came out several days earlier.)

Please please consider donating to this cause. http://www.gofundme.com/disasterrecoveryreform

You can donate anonymously, if you’d prefer.

The funds pay for public information from the City and State who have increasingly set up roadblocks for me by increasing costs (by increasing the estimated amount of time it takes them to get me the information.)  I do not pay myself out of this account. But, public information is not free and funds are running low.

Please help me continue these investigations! You can pay online or drop by my home or mail to:

Disaster Recovery Reform
c/o Lisa Kuzela
341 Carter Street NW
Cedar Rapids, IA  52405

 

 


Freedom of Information Doesn’t Mean Free Information


Freedom of Information isn’t Free

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
May 26, 2013
How much did taxpayers pay to rebuild, purchase and demolish those buildings on 1st Avenue and 1st Street SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Too much! But, the only way that the people who paid for it can find out about it is by obtaining public information.

How many people think that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) means free information? You would think that freedom of information would mean free information but it doesn’t; it only means you’re free to ask for the information and pay for said information.

That’s right, if you want any real information you will have to pay for it!

The equivalency of the Federal’s FOIA is the State of Iowa and City of Cedar Rapids’ “Open Records” law and ordinance, respectively.

But, just how “open” are these records?

information

Lisa Kuzela

Lisa Kuzela:

Lisa Kuzela was the Vice Chair of the Local Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee (L.O.S.T.) when she asked for pertinent public information regarding where some of the funds from the L.O.S.T. account had been appropriated.

Kuzela asked for a list of the homes purchased with the L.O.S.T. funds and was told that it would “cost her $110 for six hours of time to compile the data”.

They then used the excuse that it was a “privacy issue,” even though the same requested information for properties purchased with FEMA and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds had already been publicly listed. So, why not make available those purchased with L.O.S.T?  There was never any justification for their excuses.

Don’t take my word for it go check it out yourself!
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Greenway Area Address List.
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Construction Area Address List.


Assistant City Manager, Sandi Fowler, discusses Fees for Public Information

Kuzela is often charged for information requests from the City. On top of the research hourly fees, she is charged for scans – yes, scans! She is charged twenty-five cents per page to scan even though there is no ink or paper!

This clearly violates Iowa’s Open Records Law, State Code 22.3(2): “The fee for the copying service as determined by the lawful custodian shall not exceed the actual cost of providing the service. Actual costs shall include only those expenses directly attributable to supervising the examination of and making and providing copies of public records. ”

Kuzela states “when I pointed this out to the City, they said that the reason they have to charge the same for a scan as a hard copy is that the machine counts the scan the same as a copy. I told them I’ve never heard of such a thing and no one should have to pay for something when there’s no expense for it. However, I’ve gone along with this absurdity and been paying $0.25 per scanned page so I could get the information.”

If a citizen cares enough to request information they should not be charged for it if they are not requesting a hard copy of said information!

Kuzela goes on to say that within the past week, “they suddenly claim that the documents are off-site, so if I want the information, I have to pay them the time to go to another location to retrieve the documents at $20 per hour. This is over and above their hourly fee for the time it takes to scan (even though we have automatic feeders, now). This, too, is in addition to $0.25 per page to scan.”

What is wrong with the efficiency of our city if this information isn’t readily available – especially in the day of digital? Who are these people working for if they can charge taxpayers for public information – especially at a higher cost simply because they haven’t been well-organized in storing it?!

Aren’t we already paying them to do their job, and isn’t this part of their job? This all just sounds absurd to me!

But, it even gets worse!

Kuzela explains that “even though they’re emailing me the information (and therefore no supervising of staff is necessary while I review the information), they are now also saying that I have to pay a fee for ‘supervising the examination.’ So, does that mean I have to pay for an employee to supervise another? They haven’t responded to this question.”

I’m simply not buying that in this day and age when everything is digital that they don’t have this information scanned already and easily accessible! It’s obvious that the goal here is not to help the taxpayers get information, so they can oversee how their money’s being spent, but to prevent it. The City continually comes up with different excuses to make it as costly as possible in order to deter Kuzela from obtaining public information.

Click here for a link to Lisa Kuzela’s fundraising page.
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Cedar Rapids Flood Recovery Meeting and Lisa Kuzela



Is this why the cost of rehabbing the former Federal Courthouse sky rocketed?


August 8, 2011 Lisa Kuzela
Okay, here’s the ENTIRE file I found (from SOS site). All of these LLCs have William Prowell listed as the organizer / registered agent. He is an attorney for Shuttleworth and Ingersoll, (one of the big firms the City has monopolized). He is also Chair of the Neighborhood Development Corp(another of the many scam non profits here in Cedar Rapids). His name has also shown many times with other organizations that I researched that donated $$$ to Vote Yes for 20 more years of sales tax.
All of the following 3 LLCs were FORMED APRIL 2011. (NOTE: there are NO officers listed for ANY of these LLCs. I am REALLY anxious to see who they are!)

1. Courthouse II LLC is leasing from the City of Cedar Rapids the former Federal Courthouse (and future City Hall) for 99 years, then leasing it to Courthouse II Tenant for 32 years.

Courthouse_II_LLC_Certificate_of_Organization 1.jpg (JPG — 32 KB)

2. Courthouse II Manager LLC is overseeing all the building and rehabbing of the former Federal Courthouse (sounds like a “consultant” to me.)

Courthouse_II_LLC_Restated_Articles 2.jpg (JPG — 54 KB)

3. Courthouse II Tenant LLC is leasing the courthouse from Courthouse II LLC for 32 years. So, the City OWNS the former Federal Courthouse and is leasing it to Courthouse II for 99 years (probably for $1 like they always do for their friends), who is basically also leasing it back to himself (Courthouse II Tenant LLC) while managing the rebuilding. The CITY is getting the funds for the rehab, like from I-Jobs, etc.

Courthouse_II_LLC_Summary_-_William_Prowell_atty_ShuttlworthIngersoll 3.jpg (JPG — 45 KB)

So, we are actually paying for the rehab, but having Courthouse II Manager oversee everything (like John Frew with the Events Center). This all sounds like a glorified and indirect (not to mention sneaky) way to hire another overpaid consultant.

Courthouse_II_Manager_LLC_Certificate_of_Organization 4.jpg (JPG — 35 KB)

Courthouse_II_Manager_LLC_Restated_Articles 5.jpg (JPG — 55 KB)

Courthouse_II_Manager_LLC_Summary 6.jpg (JPG — 46 KB)

Courthouse_II_Tenant_LLC_Summary 7.jpg (JPG — 50 KB)

Couthouse_II_Tenant_LLC_Certificate_of_Organization 8.jpg (JPG — 34 KB)

Is THIS why the cost of rehabbing the former Federal Courthouse sky rocketed?
See attached Council Agenda and Packet from April 12, 2011, 5a and 6a:

5a) Following up on my latest discovery, it was April 12, 2011 that Council approved leasing the CITY-OWNED former Federal Courthouse (new city hall) to Courthouse II LLC for 99 years, “ownership of which entity may later be assigned.”

Hmmmm… This also sounds like another project in which the taxpayers pay for everything, then the City will be selling it on the cheap to their friends – another Sinclair? Ice Arena?

HOWEVER, Courthouse II LLC was not even established at the time Council voted to do this! This LLC was established (papers signed) April 14, 2011 (see attached file from Secretary of State regarding this subject).

6a) This same council meeting, April 12, 2011, Council then approves leasing the building back to themselves from Courthouse II Tenant for 19 years. Courthouse II Tenant was also not formed until April 14, 2011.

Staff used the excuse that the City was ineligible to receive State and Federal historic tax credits toward the old Federal Courthouse unless they put it in the hands of another eligible entity. If this was the case, then why 19 years? NINETEEN YEARS our taxes are going to go to pay rent on a building that taxpayers OWN??!
In the interim, Courthouse II Manager LLC will be overseeing all the rebuilding. Sounds like a sneaky way Council got around putting bids out for this project, less transparency, and a backdoor method to get around voting for yet another OVERPAID “consultant,” while passing along the wealth to more of their friends. WHO ARE THESE “Managing” PEOPLE?? What are their qualifications?

Council continues to vote to make agreements with LLCs and non profits that don’t even exist until they have secured funds or agreements from our City Council! I was told recently they did the same thing with Transitions Made Better, voting to give her funds before she even officially filed her non profit. I haven’t check on that yet. But, I DO know the Council approved the formation of the Neighborhood Development Corporation (NDC) and at the same meeting agreed to support giving them $1.5 million, it was a city staffer who presented the formation of the non profit is now the paid CEO for that non profit – Marty Hoeger! NDC has received State, Federal (CDBG), and now recently the City gave them another $100,000 and with NO accountability for where the money has gone. NO QUESTIONS ASKED! Oh yeah, and Christine Butterfield, the City’s Community Development Director in charge of all this is also on the NDC Board. If they want any money, she just gets it on the consent agenda for them and Council rubber stamps it.

And let me point out another thing that shows the incompetence and carelessness of our City: Council agrees to these resolutions without FIRST seeing the contracts and without knowledge of the cost of these leases!
When I was on the School Board, before we voted to pass any “contract between the District and another entity,” we had that contract in front of us before we voted on it, so we can ask questions or change things. The City does not do it that way at all.

I asked for a copy of the Pro Source contract right after they approved hiring them for another service, and the Chair of the Procurement Committee said, “well they have to write it first.” I said, “you mean you approved a contract that wasn’t yet written?” This is standard procedure with our city!

Read the attached resolutions 5a and 6a. “NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA that the City Manager and City Clerk are authorized and directed to execute the Lease Agreement and all associated documents necessary with Courthouse II, LLC, subject to legal review, contract terms, and final documents, and to be consistent with any governing rules and regulations.”

What FUNDS (and sources of funds, CDBG? FEMA?) are being used for the rehab of this Courthouse. I do know about I-Jobs (State bonds), but what else?

What is the cost of rehab up to now, and when did it increase so much?

And HOW is the CITY using the courthouse if Courthouse II is leasing it back to himself (Courthouse II Tenant) for 32 years?
It sounds like the City will have to therefore PAY RENT to Courthouse II Tenant LLC, even though the City owns the building!!!?? WHY is this being done?

THIS SOUNDS LIKE ANOTHER one of Cedar Rapids’ SCAM to help their rich friends get richer on the backs of us taxpayers!!! Isn’t this illegal? If not, it should be! It’s OUR taxes!

Then they have their hand out continually for MORE taxes!

See “Signs of Progress” here

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!


True North purchase for Public Library


by Lisa Kuzela on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 4:53pm
Here are the facts:

February 10, 2011 Cedar Rapids City Council discusses and chooses site for new library. It was between Emerald Knights, Gazette, and True North. Emerald Knights was the least expensive and the only one that did not take on any flood.

The citizen-based Library Board recommended the Gazette location. Second, was Emerald Knights. Third place, True North.

How the funding works: FEMA approves the acquisition cost for the purchase of the least expensive option (in this case, Emerald Knights), with local government having to make up the difference. This amount was $3.5 million. That’s why the City has $3.5 million from FEMA toward the acquisition cost for the library.

In spite of the presentation saying True North costing MILLIONS more than Emerald Knights, Council, with a swing vote, approves moving the Public Library to the True North site.
Emerald Knight supporters: Kris Gullick, Don Karr, Chuck Wieneke, Ron Corbett.
True North supporters: Monica Vernon, Justin Shields, Pat Shey, Tom Podzimek.
Swing voter (originally voting for Gazette site, respectfully going along with what the citizens’ Library Board recommended, yet did not use that same rationale for his second place), Chuck Swore.

At the time of this decision, True North did not own the property. It was owned by: Busse Investments, Inc., Jeff Busse, and Laverne T. Busse. In March 2010, they sold the property to True North for a total of $3.66 million.
Note: it was assessed pre-flood as well as post-flood at $1.5 million.
Note: it was flooded in the basement and several inches on first floor.

September 28, 2010 Council approves to purchase the property for $7.5 million.

During the combined November / December meeting, the citizens’ Local Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee voted overwhelmingly, 5-2, against using LOST funds for the acquisition of the library.

December 14, 2010 Council approves to spend $4 million of LOST funds to make up the difference that FEMA is paying. The City purchases the property for $7.5 million with an agreement to pay 50% of the cost of delays if the delays are the City’s fault, for up to $375,000.

February, 3, 2011, the LOST Oversight Committee meets. City auditor presents a matrix spreadsheet that states that Council obligated / approved $4.8 million of LOST funds for the Public Library acquisition. Lisa Kuzela questions the auditor on this, stating that Council approved only $4 million. In addition, “why isn’t the actual disbursement / payment listed in our matrix spreadsheet and the detailed list of expenditures?” Oh! It hasn’t been spent yet. Okay,…

But, REALLY??? …

No! Because, then Lisa finds that it WAS already spent according to the City’s “Weekly Paid Claims for the week of January 11th.

January 11, 2011, under the City’s “Weekly Paid Claims,” True North receives their full $7.5 million, paying – not $4 million from LOST – but $4.8 million. This is $800,000 over and above what Council approved.

Therefore, this expenditure should’ve been on the list of expenditures the Oversight Committee received on February 3rd. There was plenty of time to put it on there. There are pages of other expenditures after that date listed on the detailed list of expenditures the Oversight Committee was given. So, why did our own city auditor not include this $4.8 million LOST expenditure information to the Oversight Committee? Because the check was for $800,000 more than what Council approved, that’s why.

The City of Cedar Rapids received the deed to this True North property on December 29, 2011. The deal was done and payments were made. (BTW, this was a mere FIFTEEN days after Council approved spending $4 million from LOST to make up the gap between the $7.5 million purchase price and the $3.5 million FEMA covered. Why can’t they move that fast with the flood victims’ buyouts?)

Just think, if our city bought the True North site directly from the owners at the time they decided to put the library there, FEMA would’ve paid for the entire acquisition, and there wouldn’t have been any LOST money needed.


HMGP flood victims: “$10,000 Incentive” is NOT a DOB for RHA


HMGP Flood Victims: “$10,000 Incentive” is NOT a DOB for RHA
by Lisa Kuzela, August 9, 2011

I have been saying this from the beginning, but once again, no one would listen. I hope those who have worked hard to discredit me will realize how much they screwed themselves and other flood victims due to not allowing me the opportunity to be on the inside to make sure these errors would not have occurred.

Reminder: A Duplication of Benefits (DOB) is utilized to check on funds received for the SAME specific purpose for which the assistance is given (for instance structure, personal possessions, etc.)

The following is one of the several waivers that the states of Louisiana and Texas asked for from HUD and received. I have no documentation if Iowa ever requested this waiver, probably not the with where their priorities were. However, our state IS using “$10,000 incentive” for those acquisitions in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), aka “greenway” zone.

I’ve seen enough files from flood victims who were in the 100 year flood plain (HMGP) and their Iowa Dept. of Economic Development (IDED) DOB papers that say “$10,000 Incentive” + “$15,000 Replacement Housing Assistance” – in order to make equal the $25,000 of RHA that everyone was offered (if they qualify).

For these flood victims who received the $10,000 “incentive,” it is NOT a DOB of Replacement Housing Assistance (RHA) and should have NEVER BEEN DEDUCTED as such from the $25,000 RHA. It is for a different purpose from any replacement housing funds and is in addition to their buyout and RHA.
Also, those who relocated from the 500 year flood plain could’ve been eligible for this $10,000 incentive also had the State (urged by our local government) asked for it.

NOTE: the following quote below comes from the Federal Register /Vol. 74, No. 156 / Friday, August 14, 2009 Notice:
“For example, a grantee may offer an incentive payment (possibly in addition to buyouts) for households that
volunteer to relocate within a particular period of time, or who choose to resettle outside a 100- or 500-year floodplain. Note, however, that if the grantee requires the funds to be used for a particular purpose by the household receiving the assistance, then the activity will be that required use, not an eligible incentive. The Department is waiving 42 U.S.C. 5305(a) and associated regulations to make these uses of grant funds eligible.”

The buyout forms state “incentive payment” therefore it is not officially used as replacement housing assistance or on the structure in any way, and it should not have counted within the $25,000 RHA. INCENTIVE is the use; not RHA.


C.R. Gives Away $3.84 million of L.O.S.T.


Cedar Rapids Gives Away $3.84 million of L.O.S.T.
by Lisa Kuzela on Thursday, February 24, 2011 at 11:57pm

The True North and the Sinclair connection…
Although the City received a $3.5 million for the Sinclair fire from Selective Insurance Company, the AGENT for Cedar Rapids, (who submitted the claim to them) was TRUE NORTH.

True North submitted a claim to Selective in February 2009 for “other damages.” It was declined. In March 2009, they submitted a claim for “flood.” It too was rejected. Then in July 2009, a mysterious fire appeared at Sinclair. The fire was in Warehouse Bldg #4. It was leased at the time of the flood, I believe by Linn Star Transfer. However, this was damaged flooded property at the time of the fire.

One of the reasons it’s mysterious is because still today, no one knows how it started. The fire report reads that “Fire crews on scene stated that there were several separate areas within the fire buidling that were burning.” Usually accidental fires begin from a single isolated fire. Also, there were several gas cans found at the site. However, on August 2nd, “since the products were still smoldering and the integrity of the building was compromised by the partial demolition, we would not enter to do an examination.” Therefore, at that time, the fire was ruled as “Undetermined.”

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department report states a property loss of $2,962,800. Where did this number come from? I have no idea. It was probably told to them by someone from City Hall. Prosser, perhaps?

Although the City owned the property (and therefore “exempt” from property taxes), the part of the property that was leased out to the businesses was taxable and listed on the City’s assessment as such. (Sinclair address: 1600 – 3rd St. SW; parcel 14273-28001-00000)
The 2008 assessor note states: Taxable leased areas: land value=$134,199; building value=$178,274; and the total value (land + building) =$312.473. Note that this is the PRE-flood assessed value. So, the flood even LOWERED this value; it was not valued this much at the time of the FIRE.

Simply put, the total taxable assessed value (BEFORE the flood) for ALL the leased areas was $312,473. Yet, the City, with True North’s help, submitted a claim for $3.5 million! Yes, True North was able to get Selective Insurance to pay Cedar Rapids $3.5 million on just a PART of this leased property – that of warehouse #4.

Move forward to February 10, 2010: The City Council approves using the True North site (located at 401 – 4th Ave SE) for the new public library. True North doesn’t even own the site, but Council is told the cost of the acquisition would cost the City about $8 million, even though the assessed value of the property was a mere $1.5 million!

In March, True North purchases the property from the owners for $3.66 million. The attorney who helps True North with document preparation is Joseph Schmall of Bradley & Riley Law Firm. (Joseph Schmall is also the registered agent for “Lehman, Allsop & Evans,” who owns the property where the Central Fire Station is temporarily relocated. See related articles.)

In September, Council approves to purchase the True North site for $7.5 million. Since FEMA will pay $3.5 million toward the property acquisition for the library, this leaves the local taxpayers to make up the $4 million out of LOST, which Council approves December 14, 2010. Thus making a profit of $3.84 million for True North!

This profit True North received is awfully close to the $3.5 million amount True North managed to get for the City for the fire-damaged Sinclair building assessed at less than $312,473, PRE-flood!

Not only should the insurance industry be investigating this, but the local taxpayers should be screaming about the waste. Wouldn’t it have been the fiscally wise thing to do for Cedar Rapids to purchase the True North site directly from the original property owners who held the deeds back in February 2010 when Council approved moving the Public Library to that location? FEMA would’ve paid for the entire acquisition.

PLEASE GO TO MY FACEBOOK WALL – UNDER “NOTES” – TO SEE CORRESPONDING DOCUMENTATION.