Cutliff Grove's attorney speaks on investigation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Cutliff Grove's attorney speaks on investigation

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By Cade Fowler - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The Dougherty District Attorney is preparing to investigate a failed construction project that cost the city several hundred thousand dollars.

But an attorney for the non-profit group that led the project says nothing illegal or improper took place.

The matter dates back to 2004 when Cutliff Grove received $364,000 in HUD money to build low to moderate income apartments on a plot of land along Broad Avenue.

Six years later, there are no apartments. Still, questions remain over what happened to the money. 

"The money was spent appropriately. There were architectural plans. There was construction estimates, There was a contract. There was an environmental review," said Cutliff Grove's Attorney Benjamin Erlitz.

He says those were legitimate expenses but the economy changed and plans fell through. The only thing tangible left over from the money spent was the land.

"The financing that was supposed to take place was no longer available and it had nothing to do with this non-profit and it wasn't the city's fault. It's just something that happened," said Erlitz.

City commissioners voted Tuesday night to ask District Attorney Greg Edwards to look into where the money was spent, but they don't want to call it a criminal investigation.

"I would agree with that at this point. This is not a criminal investigation in my perspective. It's essentially a forensic audit such that we will be looking at what happened with the transactions and just go from there," said Edwards.

But Erlitz says the city doesn't need to follow a paper trail because they were aware of when and where the money was spent.

"The Cutliff Grove Family Resource Center never had these funds. It was always in the city's possession. The city wrote every check of this money. Every check that was written had an invoice and had support behind it and they didn't write a check until they had that. There was no way they could have taken the money," said Erlitz.

Edwards says he has not received the request in writing from Mayor Willie Adams and isn't sure how long the process will take before the audit is complete.

"We have to distinguish that financial mismanagement will be just that. And, of course, if there's been no criminal intent or criminal act in conjunction with mismanagement, it's not necessarily a crime," said Edwards.

Crime or not, it's still a failed project with no indication that the money will ever be recovered.

City leaders, who voted 6-1 to for the investigation, admit they made mistakes that contributed to the failure of the project

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