ND Commerce Department probes nepotism in Grand Forks housing

By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

NEPOTISM UNCOVERED: Grand Forks Urban Development Director Greg Hoover signed off on his employee and daughter Ashley Hoover’s low income apartment. After the North Dakota Commerce Department reviewed the lease it was found to be against federal rules for the affordable housing program.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A housing official in Grand Forks who signed paperwork to give his daughter a subsidized apartment through a federal affordable housing program raised eyebrows at the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Now the daughter is losing her lease, and is leaving her job.

On April 1, a “Notice of Adverse Finding” appeared in the Grand Forks Herald.

“Notice is hereby given by the city of Grand Forks that the North Dakota Department of Commerce has made an adverse finding as a result of the 2011 monitoring of the City’s HOME program,” the advertisement read. “The adverse finding relates to the conflict of interest due to the renting of a unit in a HOME funded project by Ashley Hoover, the daughter of the Executive Director of the Urban Development Department, Greg Hoover, and an employee with the City’s Urban Development Department. Such conflict of interest determined by the North Dakota Department of Commerce violates 24 CFR Section 92.356(b) and 24 CFR Section 85.36(b)(3).”

The ad was a result of a March 4 letter sent by the Commerce Department, which monitors the HOME program through its Department of Community Services, finding that Hoover renting an apartment to his daughter was against the law.

“Due to these violations of the HOME regulations,” DCS Director Paul Govig wrote, “HUD has determined that DCS must ensure that Ms. Hoover’s lease not be renewed for 2014.”

The letter also requests the city attorney be notified of the violation and that the adverse finding be published in the local paper.

On Friday, Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland responded to the letter, indicating that Ashley Hoover’s lease would be “terminated” on April 30, and her employment with the City of Grand Forks would “terminate” in May. The letter also indicated the ad had been placed in the Herald on April 1, and included a copy of it.

Despite the ad appearing in the paper, it didn’t appear in the news section until after a reporter highlighted the situation in a blog post.

“A state official said Tuesday, city officials had fixed an apparent conflict of interest in which the daughter of Grand Forks’ Director Urban Development director rented an apartment subsidized by federal funds that came through her father’s department,” reporter Stephen Lee wrote for the Herald in its Wednesday issue. “The controversy became news when conservative blogger Rob Port wrote about it Tuesday on his Say Anything blog.”

Despite the wording in the Feland letter, Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown and Greg Hoover indicated to Lee that Ashley Hoover hadn’t been terminated as a result of the nepotism.

“She decided months ago, that she would quit at the end of the school year,” Greg Hoover is quoted as saying by Lee.

Contact Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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