San Benito reviews HUD monitoring findings

Officials tight-lipped after closed-door meeting

SAN BENITO — Officials are mum after reviewing federal findings surrounding the city’s expenditure of grant money.

Last night, city commissioners met in closed session with City Attorney Mark Sossi to review the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s on-site monitoring of the city’s Community Development Block Grant program.

After 25 minutes behind closed doors, Mayor Ben Gomez said commissioners took no action.

During the meeting, commissioners met with Sossi to review HUD’s findings.

City Manager Manuel De La Rosa said officials are planning to respond to the agency, which administers federal money aimed at improving living standards in low-income areas.

“We met to get some legal advice,” De La Rosa said after the meeting. “It was just to get some legal advice so we can respond. We’re still strategizing.”

Commissioners said they couldn’t comment on HUD’s findings because discussions were held in closed session.

At HUD offices, spokesman Scott Hudman could not provide details into the agency’s monitoring of the city’s CDBG program.

“We routinely monitor grantees,” he said. “We have a responsibility in terms of dollars granted to grantees.”

The agency monitors years of expenditures.

“On-site monitoring visits, off-site reviews and audits ensure that program funds are being used properly,” the agency states on its website. “These reviews also determine whether a grantee’s implementation activities comply with … program goals and regulations.”

Under De La Rosa, officials have earmarked most of the city’s annual CDBG allocations to fund public improvements, such as park upgrades and street projects in low-income areas.

Meanwhile, local charities such as the San Benito Boys and Girls Club and Cameron and Willacy County Court Appointed Special Advocates have complained about the city’s funding cutbacks.

However, Hudman said the agency allows cities to use grant money to fund eligible public improvements in low-income areas.

The agency allows officials to determine their funding of local charities.