News that the administration is going to a third party to look into the relationship between Sunshine Inc. and the city of Warren is welcomed, but perhaps it is time to wonder why this organization is such a mess. How many problems have been documented in this newspaper over the last six months alone? Derelict properties needing demolition, cash flow issues, tax payment issues on land contracts, the fact that land contracts were even being used. ... We've read about it all.
And, of course, Sunshine's "sister" non-profit Warren Redevelopment and Planning has the same executive director. Aside from the blatant conflict of interest, it also has its share of issues. Issues regarding loans not being paid back, well over three years since any documented board meetings, questions of if there is even a working board, issues of transparency and openness and distinct questions regarding things such as the astronomical amount paid for the Fred Martin property at $75,000 an acre. You tell me what other land in Warren is worth that much.
What do these organizations have in common, outside of the same executive director? Well, they are both organizations that operate, one way or another, under the umbrella of Warren's Community Development office and the city's CD director, Mr. Mike Keys.
Councilperson Helen Rucker may have hit on the reasons for such dysfunction during her first Health and Welfare meeting regarding Sunshine, when she said that when Mr. Keys was hired, he showed up "not brought up to speed" and that he "did not come in ready to work." Of course, for a job that posted, at the time, as paying "$5,083 to $5, 980 per month," why would someone be hired that was not "ready to work"?
I have no idea why Mayor Angelo hired someone who was not "ready to work," though when one reads the press clippings from when Mr. Keys was hired, a sad picture does come into focus. According to articles written when Mr. Keys was hired, Warren Councilpersons objected that a person with no college degree was hired for a position that called for a degree in "Public Administration/Economics." Over a hundred people applied for the position, eight were interviewed and Mayor Angelo gave it to a man who left the WRRO radio station, where he was a talk show host, when he made Mr. Keys WRAP director in 1998. When Mayor Angelo bumped him up to CD, council members were so incensed, a few tried to pass an ordinance that would have penalized unqualified hirees by only paying them a portion of the stated salary. Perhaps they saw a problem in giving a $60,000 a year job, at the time, to a man who merely put "1975-1986 self employed" with no further explanation on his resume. By the way, that job now pays more than $80,000 a year with full pension and benefits.
Why dredge up this silly episode in Warren's history? Well, perhaps folks wanting to audit just Sunshine or WRAP are on the right track but still thinking too small. Given the documented evidence that Warren's Community Development office is headed by someone unqualified, perhaps folks should be asking for an audit of Community Development itself since Mr. Keys took it over. We will never know of the opportunities lost because of leadership issues in this department. Stories of grants not being applied for and paperwork not being completed properly run rampant in this city. Casual glances at Sunshine and WRAP sure seem to be evidence that CD is not working as it should. A third party needs to come in and find out what else is rotting in this department.