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By Janae’ Miller
SUN STAFF WRITER
A City of Detroit Building Authority official was recently convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud with the Demolition Program and was sentenced to 1 year in prison followed by 2 years probation and a $5,000 fine.
Aradondo Haskins, a former Field Operations Manager, pled guilty to accepting $26,000 in bribes in exchange for giving a competitive contractor information to help him to win a demolition bid from January 2013 to April 2015. Haskins also worked at Adamo Group, a private demolition firm, as an estimator that required him to put together bid packages in response to Requests for Proposals (RFP) put out by the City of Detroit .
Confidential information was given to one of the contractors by Haskins to win the bid.
“The City of Detroit and its demolition program were entrusted with millions of taxpayer dollars to tear down abandoned houses in Detroit’s neighborhoods,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin, said. “The corruption of the government contracting process by Aradondo Haskins damaged the integrity of the demolition program and broke the public trust. This prosecution serves as a warning to public officials that soliciting or accepting bribes will be punished and as a promise to the taxpaying public that such violations of the public trust will not be tolerated.”
The Blight Elimination Program was created by the U.S. Treasury Department and was financed through the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). About $258,656,459 has been given to Detroit since Oct. 7, 2013 to tear down blighted homes.
“Anti-competitive corruption by city officials that award contracts in the Hardest Hit Fund’s Blight Elimination Program will be met by justice and accountability,” Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero said. “Defendant Haskins started taking bribes from subcontractors when he worked for lead contractor Adamo and continued his crimes as a city official. I commend U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim for standing united with SIGTARP in fighting corruption in this TARP program.”
Haskins also turned over the funds he received from bribes.
“Mr. Haskins was sentenced for corrupting the bidding process both while he was seeking contracts through a federally-funded program and after he became a City of Detroit employee,” Steven M D'Antuono, special agent in charge, said. “The FBI’s Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force will continue to investigate and fight corruption by those who give illegal, preferential treatment at the expense of honest American business. I would encourage anyone with information about potential public corruption in Michigan to contact FBI Detroit's Public Corruption tipline at 313-965-2222 or our main number at 313-965-2323.”
Detroit building official convicted of bulldozing demolition program
Nessel opposes proposed federal rule that would deprive
144,000 Michiganders of food assistance
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel last month joined 23 other Attorneys General to oppose the federal government’s proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would strip away benefits from 144,188 individuals in 79,901 Michigan households.
The Attorneys General filed a comment letter against the rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would end states’ ability to set rules for SNAP eligibility based on the unique needs of their communities. The letter argues that the rule would violate federal law and harm the states, their residents, their local economies, and public health.
“This proposed rule is entirely unacceptable and exhibits a blatant disregard for more than 10 percent of SNAP recipients in Michigan,” said Nessel. “I am horrified that the federal government feels comfortable not only in depriving adults of the essential assistance needed to put food on their tables, but also denying 58,743 Michigan children from eating lunch at school and consequently impacting their ability to learn.”
The USDA’s proposed rule – “Revision of Categorical Eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” – would affect the SNAP program, the country’s most important anti-hunger program referred to as “food stamps.” The program provides residents with limited incomes access to nutritious food they otherwise would not have. SNAP is a crucial component of federal and state efforts to help lift people out of poverty.
Based on federal guidelines, each state designs its own process for how low-income residents apply for SNAP benefits. The states must track whether participants meet the income and asset requirements for the program on a monthly basis.
The federal government’s proposed rule would eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad based categorical eligibility” (BBCE). BBCE allows states to consider local economic factors like high costs of living or costs of childcare when determining eligibility for SNAP. It also allows states to adopt less restrictive asset limits so that families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities can attempt to save money without losing food aid. BBCE is used by 39 states including Michigan, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Attorneys General argue in their comment letter that the proposed rule harms the states by:
Taking food assistance away from 3.1 million vulnerable people: If finalized, the proposed rule would cause 3.1 million low-income individuals – including working poor families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities – to lose critical nutrition assistance. According to the administration’s calculations, the rule would cause low-income Americans to lose at least $10.5 billion in SNAP benefits.
Causing 265,000 children to lose free school meals: Children in households that receive SNAP are eligible for free meals at school. This rule change would mean an estimated 265,000 children nationwide would lose access to free school meals, leading to food insecurity and malnourishment. According to studies, food insecure (the disruption of food intake or eating patterns due to the lack of money or other resources) children are more likely to have learning difficulties and reduced academic performance, stomachaches, frequent headaches and colds, iron deficiency anemia, asthma, and mental health problems.
Disproportionately taking SNAP benefits from seniors: According to estimates, this rule change would have a disproportionate impact on seniors. More than 13 percent of all SNAP households with elderly members would lose food assistance.
Harming public health and increasing healthcare costs: States’ medical, disability and other systems will be burdened when people who lose SNAP benefits become food insecure or malnourished. Food insecurity is linked to some of the most potentially costly health conditions.
such as diabetes, obesity, and complications in pregnancy. Studies have shown that SNAP is associated with better health and, correspondingly, reduced health care costs.
Harming state economies: SNAP benefits are provided to low-income individuals with immediate spending needs, and SNAP boosts local economies by increasing consumer demand, injecting money directly into the economy, creating jobs, and supporting national and local retailers and the food industry generally. If 3.1 million people lose SNAP benefits, these cuts will have negative ripple effects across the nation’s economy.
Increasing administrative burdens on states: The Government Accountability Office has consistently found that polices like BBCE can save state and federal resources and improve productivity. The proposed rule will eliminate these efficiency gains and increase administrative costs—and every dollar that states spend on administrative costs is money taken away from needy families.
The Attorneys General also argue that the proposed rule violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs how federal agencies implement rule changes. Among other violations of the APA, the proposed rule fails to provide a legitimate justification for changing longstanding USDA policy, conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, and exceeds USDA’s authority.
Nessel joins the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting the letter to the USDA.
Families urged to develop and practice a home
fire escape plan during Fire Prevention Month
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proclaimed October as Fire Prevention Month to help emphasize this year’s National Fire Protection Association theme: “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.”
“I urge Michigan families to develop a home fire escape plan – and practice it, especially in the dark, with the entire family,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “It is vitally important to know two ways out of every room in case of fire. Home fire escape planning saves lives.”
Recent statistics on fire fatalities in Michigan indicate that a majority of fire deaths happen overnight, specifically with fires starting in the living room or bedroom.
“We have as little as two or three minutes to escape the house from the time the smoke alarm sounds,” said Orlene Hawks, Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, in which the Bureau of Fire Services is housed. “A fire escape plan can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.”
“Having working smoke alarms in every bedroom and on every level of your home – as well as closed bedroom doors when you are sleeping – are the best defenses against fast-moving fires and can cut a family’s risk of dying in a home fire in half,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.
Michiganders should be sure to check the smoke alarms for their elderly family members and identify any fire hazards in their home and help correct them. It is also important to watch out for careless smoking, as smoking is the leading known cause of residential fire fatalities in Michigan since 2017.
Here are tips to make your home more fire-safe:
• Install smoke alarms on every level of the home and inside every sleeping area.
• Check the alarm by pushing the test button every month.
• Never smoke in bed; keep lighters and cigarettes away from children.
• Never leave cooking unattended.
• Keep the stove and burners clean and free of grease while you cook to avoid the potential for a small kitchen fire that can get out of hand quickly.
• Never leave candles unattended; place them in sturdy holders on uncluttered surfaces, keeping them at least a foot away from anything that can burn, including curtains, bedding, furniture, and carpeting.
• Have fireplaces, chimneys, wood stoves, and coal stoves inspected annually by a professional – and cleaned if necessary.
• Never leave a fire in the fireplace unattended.
• Use caution when using space heaters; never leave them unattended, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn, and place them on a hard-nonflammable surface, like a ceramic tile floor.
• Replace frayed extension cords; do not overload extension cords.
• Never overload electrical outlets; plug only one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.
• Major appliances should not be plugged in using extension cords and plug strips.
• Plug appliances directly into the wall receptacle. Same goes with space heaters.
• Keep clothes and other items three feet away from gas water heaters.
• Clean the dryer lint screen after each load – lint is extremely flammable.
• Have fire extinguishers in the home and know how to use them.
• Make sure all doors and windows leading outside open easily and are not blocked by clutter.
• Sleep with your bedroom door closed to limit fire spread. Closing the door before dozing can save lives by reducing toxic smoke levels and slowing down the spread of fire and smoke into sleeping areas.
• Make sure you close the bedroom door behind you if you escape a fire by going out a window. This slows down the spread of fire and smoke.
“Fire can happen to you,” said Sehlmeyer. “With these practical and essential preventive measures, people can help avoid fires in their homes and also be better prepared if a fire does occur.”
MI Prevention – a statewide fire safety campaign through the State Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Fire Services and Michigan’s fire safety organizations is working to reduce the number of fire deaths, injuries and property loss in Michigan. In order to protect the health and safety of high-risk populations in targeted areas, over the course of the last eight months MI Prevention has installed 21,384 smoke alarms and 6,455 carbon monoxide detectors in homes free of charge and is educating consumers on safety practices. Consumers can find more resources and safety information at the MI Prevention website: www.michigan.gov/miprevention.
Last year, 139 Michigan residents were killed in 108 residential fires, and fire departments throughout the state responded to approximately 13,745 home fires, according to state fire departments’ data gathered through the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
“The downward trend in residential fire fatalities is encouraging,” said Sehlmeyer. “But I still urge Michiganders to be diligent in practicing fire safety all year long.”
The Michigan Bureau of Fire Services joins the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other state and national organizations in recognizing Fire Prevention week and is extending educational outreach efforts to fire departments and the public during the entire month of October.
The NFPA has been the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years, making it the longest-running public health and safety observance on record. For more information about preventing fires and staying safe, go to the NFPA official Fire Prevention Week website at www.firepreventionweek.org.