West Palm bishop defends his actions

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Bishop Harold Ray is speaking out, telling FOX 29 Investigators why his nonprofit shouldn't have to pay back millions of dollars to the City of West Palm Beach.

Ray submitted thousands of pages of documents to the city in response to an August letter that detailed 21 ways Redemptive Life Urban Initiatives Corporation violated federal or state regulations while building, selling and maintaining low-income housing in the Coleman Park neighborhood.

Ray says the money was spent according to agreements and contracts approved by the city and blames the city for poor management and organization. "For whatever the internal reasons are," Ray said during an interview with the FOX 29 team Monday, "they did not accurately keep records the we had submitted them with."

The bishop points directly to the administrative staff changes at the city's low income housing development department for the problems during the eight years, the non-profit arm of his church, has been working with the city. He says the city had many opportunities to raise questions, but never did.

"There was no secretive, anything being performed by us," Ray said. "They were performed with knowledge and sometimes pursuant and with specific direction of city staff."

In one finding the city questions more than $2 million Redemptive Life Urban Initiatives Corporation spent on construction financing, land surveying and payroll. Ray says the spending is allowed because the non-profit set-up three separate accounts: two that have restrictions attached to them and a discretionary fund that does not.

Money from the discretionary fund paid more than $60,000 to Ray and another $5,000 to his wife, Brenda. "They were not federal dollars," Ray said. "They were discretionary dollars."

A number of the findings allege that the money spent by redemptive Life Urban Initiatives Corporations was spent without complying with Federal regulations. In his response to the City, Ray details how spending did comply with the contracts the non-profit had with the city and how the contracts were approved by the city -- something he says was his main concern.

"We have contracts with the city, the city compiled those contracts, the contracts were drafted exclusively by the city," Ray said. "We complied with those as written by the city and through dealing with interpretations with the city we feel that if the city interpretations at time of project were not accurate that we should not be discredited. We complied with live contracts and interpretations at the time." 

FOX 29 asked Ray if Redemptive Life and those involved with the project should be the ones ultimately held responsible. His response? He doesn't think so.

"We have been responsible and have accounted for every dime," he said. "We have no contract with HUD (Housing and Urban Development), we only have one with the city, a city contract provides they are to monitor, assess and train us."

The city was unable to comment because the federal investigation into how this money was spent is still on-going. The City did tell us that they are still in the process of reviewing the documents that Ray recently submitted.
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