Fiscal mismanagement spurs federal scrutiny
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney hired a friend with a dicey history of handling federal funding over a highly-qualified candidate, which led to scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the loss of grant money.
Landis Faulcon, the city's director of Community and Business Development, was hired in January 2018. She previously worked with Small-Toney in Savannah, Ga., where they drew the ire of the city council there for high-dollar contractor payouts.
Faulcon failed to complete paperwork necessary in recieving $182,000 from HUD for a housing project. The money ended up coming out of local taxpayers' pockets.
The city has fallen under HUD scrutiny due to Faulcon's reputation of mismanagement elsewhere, including Norlfolk, Va., where HUD questioned reporting practices.
Faulcon's presence tanked any chance HUD would give money to the city, according to current and former city employees and a HUD official in the Greensboro field office who’s at home due to the ongoing federal government shutdown.
"With Faulcon here, we're screwed," one employee said.
Faulcon's history of funding mismanagement and the complete turnover of her department in just a few months meant HUD was going to heavily review anything coming from Rocky Mount, according to the HUD official who spoke to the Telegram on condition of anonymity because they're not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Rocky Mount had recovered good standing with HUD under community development administrators Lea Henry and Kellianne Davis, but all that sweat equity is wasted now, the official said.
Mirroring other hiring situations including the police chief search and the newly-hired parks and recreation director, Small-Toney ignored more qualified candidtes to hire less qualified friends, the definition of cronyism.
While Faulcon was hired for the community and business development director position, a candidate with an immaculate resume was overlooked.
Stuart Lee was one of the four candidates including Faulcon, according to a city employee familiar with the process.
While Lee declined to speak with the Telegram, his notable contributions to Rocky Mount are easily accessible.
With his work recognized by former Vice President Joe Biden, Lee served as the leader of the Strong Cities Strong Communities in 2016. The inititive focused on workforce development and recruitment, growing the regional food economy and improving life in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Lee also received recognition from Mayor David Combs and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro.
Lee helped draft an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama based on a model implemented in selected cities including Rocky Mount.
Lee worked on a detail from the White House Special Council that brought in roughly $6 million in financial and technical assistance for community and economic development projects around Rocky Mount.
According to former city employees, Lee helped bridge gaps between the city and HUD and facilitated HUD training for all the community development staff. All of those staff members have left under Small-Toney and Faulcon.