ROCHESTER (KDKA) — Beaver County stands to lose millions in federal funding because of the alleged actions of one of its lawyers.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has come down hard on the county, demanding it repay close to a half a million dollars.
The controversy stems from a federal grant to renovate an apartment building in Rochester for low-income tenants and the involvement of a lawyer name Al Torrence.
He is a prominent figure in Democratic politics and part-time solicitor for the Beaver County Controller’s office.
HUD’s Office of the Inspector General has ruled that Torrence had a conflict-of-interest; working as a county official, and, at the same time, a limited partner and legal representative for the project.
Because of this alleged conflict of interest, HUD came down hard, slapping the county with the loss of more than $400,000 in grant money over the next three years. It’s money that should go to poor people.
Torrence was not in his office Tuesday and did not return phone calls. He did issue a statement denying a conflict of interest, saying HUD had previously agreed with him.
The statement said: “I had no conflict of interest because I had no role in directing who receives grants.”
But Torrence got in similar hot water with the feds five years ago when KDKA reported that as solicitor for Beaver County HeadStart, the organization renovated and leased two buildings he owned.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Don’t you personally enrich yourself by having the organization that you represent lease two buildings from you with 10-year guaranteed leases?”
“I am a landlord like all the other landlords of HeadStart, and certainly, to the extent that you are a landlord and operating a commercial property for a tenant, yes, you can make some money on that,” Torrence said in February of 2012.
The Beaver County Commission has agreed to pay HUD a $25,000 fine over the Rochester building and accept grant reductions totaling $405,000 over the next three years.
But County Commission Chairwoman Sandie Egley says Torrence or his development partner should reimburse the county.
“I want to make sure that the people that need this money the most get it. Senior, children, people who can’t speak for themselves,” Egley said.