The hearing, in which there were no comments from the public, was part of the city’s request to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for an exception based upon the conflict of interest held by City Commissioner Douglas S. Hollberg.
Mayor Joanne Todd explained Hollberg “hasn’t done anything wrong, the only conflict is he owns property in the area,”
Hollberg and his father own seven properties situated in and affected by the infrastructure improvements (water and sewer rehabilitation) to be funded by 2013 Community Development Block Grant awarded to the city. According to Director of Planning and Development Taurus Freeman, the target area “is on of the most blighted neighborhoods in the city of Griffin with inordinately large percent of housing in rental occupancy.”
The boundaries of the target area are Lexington Avenue to the north, Austin Avenue to the South, Haskell Ward Drive to the east and North 6th Street and Hill Street to the West, also referred to as the Fairmont area in the application.
Freeman said the target area was selected by the project engineer, Public Works Department and Community Development Department, with guidance from the city’s grant writing specialist, and the Board of Commissioners played no role in its selection.
CDBG projects must benefit at least 70 percent low-to-moderate income persons, aid in the prevent of slum and blight and meet a community need. In this case, Freeman said, that is rehabilitating public water and sewer infrastructure.
Hollberg has voluntarily recused himself from any participation or votes affecting this project or the funding thereof. On Tuesday, he recused himself from the hearing, and abstained from the votes to amend the agenda to add the vote resolution to submit the request and from the vote on submitting the request.
Because Community Development Block Grant is state funded, the hearing is required and commissioners must disclose any conflicts of interest, if they own or live in areas affected by the grant. Hollberg has recused himself from votes and discussion of previous grants, as have other commissioners who live or own land in the areas covered by the prior grants.
Back in September and October of 2011, three city commissioners including Hollberg had to abstain from votes accepting a similar grant and awarding the contract for the work for the same reason.