Johnson sent this statement this morning, in response to this recent JFP article. It's pasted here verbatim:
STATEMENT OF HARVEY JOHNSON REGARDING JACKSON FREE PRESS ARTICLE Having read the article in the Jackson Free Press, “Repayment of HUD Funds Emerges as Election Issue, ” I was struck by the poor attempt at political hay being made by our new councilman from Ward 2 on a matter that he should be fighting to resolve in favor of the citizens rather than quickly agreeing to write an astronomical check to a federal agency over a questionable dispute.
As a former mayor and an advisor to Mississippi towns for 40 years, I have on many occasions had disagreements with HUD about their interpretations of CDBG regulations. I have worked in and with the CDBG program since its inception in 1975, and I am therefore thoroughly familiar with the program’s objectives.
When it comes to HUD and other federal agencies, I have found that the best approach when there are questions of interpretation or disputes of facts is to vigorously negotiate and take advantage of the administrative appeal process, even if it means meeting with the HUD Secretary or the White House, to achieve a satisfactory resolution. I have gotten federal officials to change their positions entirely or greatly reduce the amounts of money in dispute.
The letter from the city to HUD referenced in the news article appears to be the culmination of a negotiation process lasting only three months, which is an extremely short period of time to resolve a dispute with HUD involving that many issues. In my mind, conceding so early and for such a large dollar amount reflects a lack of experience and understanding in dealing with HUD programs by the person or persons who, rather than stand up to the HUD bureaucracy, chose the easy path to turn over local taxpayer money , while blaming the whole thing on the guy out of office. Such an approach is a bad precedent for the city. We certainly don’t want some bureaucrat thinking he can shake us from our lunch money, just because he thinks he can.
My decision in connection with this matter would have been to refrain from throwing in the towel so quickly by casually writing a check from the city’s general fund made payable to HUD. During my previous administration the city was not intimidated by federal bureaucrats acting contrary to the best interest of our local citizens. I will bring that same determination to my next administration.
As far as I can tell, the Council has not yet voted on making payment to HUD. I encourage the Council to hold up doing so until the new mayor is sworn in this month, who hopefully will be someone with the knowledge and experience and leadership traits that will protect our taxpayers from bureaucratic overreach.