New Details Released About Audit Of City Program

(Memphis) A lot of money switching hands among a lot of people is why the city asked for an audit of the grass mitigation program headed by Onzie Horne.

It is part of the mayor’s 25-square program aimed at fighting blight 25 blocks at a time.

“Last year we about doubled the amount that was allocated to the program,” Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little said. “We have about 30 vendors about $3.4 million involved.”

The city says it cut 52,000 lots last year, but Little said there was little oversight.

When people called in to the 311 center to complain about blighted lots some results were never tracked.

“What we found was there was not enough oversight and follow up to check and make sure the right lots have been cut that the payments were being made appropriately,” he said.

There were a series of problems.

Some vendors weren’t getting paid others were paid for work that wasn’t done.

Some properties were cut multiple times. Others were skipped all together.

Then there’s this.

“If we go on private property and cut that grass then the property owner is responsible for paying for it. Because of lack of controls I’m not sure we even have the documentation to try and to recover the funds.”

He said that’s why the city decided the man in charge just wasn’t cutting it and accepted Horne’s resignation on Friday.

“We would have expected the learning to kind of even out and get to a point where you have a good handle on it and we simply weren’t seeing that like we would have liked,” he said. “We need to make sure we have our house in order.”

The audit is still not complete so Little did not know how much money may have been mismanaged.

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