A federal grand jury is looking into liens that city government’s neighborhoods anti-blight agency put on people’s properties.
The agency, the Livable City Initiative (LCI), responded to a subpoena from the FBI for “any and all documents related to fees, fines, and liens levied by LCI on residential property owners and/or landlords of properties located in New Haven, Connecticut” between Jan. 1, 2012, and July 31, 2013.
Click here to read the FBI subpoena, sent to LCI Executive Director Erik Johnson.
LCI put liens on more than 200 properties over that time for unpaid bills ranging from anti-blight fines to property maintenance and relocation. LCI has been taking care of abandoned rundown properties throughout the city thanks to to the neglect of banks holding debt or out-of-town slumlords or departed owners facing foreclosure. (Banks’ names rarely appear on the liens because they hold off for a year or more on taking title to abandoned properties, in order to avoid responsibility for taking care of them.)
The liens totaled $667,789.82, of which LCI reported collecting $77,178.35. The agency often waits until a blighted property is sold to collect its back debts.
Click here to view the spreadsheet LCI turned over to the FBI listing all the liens.
Mayor John DeStefano said Sunday that given that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had launched an investigation into the matter, he didn’t see the need to have New Haven’s police launch a “parallel investigation” into the allegation.
“It seems limited to an allegation of the behavior of a field officer” and did not involve any supervisors, DeStefano said.
“The FBI has not spoken to me about any specific allegations that have taken place among any members of my staff,” Erik Johnson said.
(Johnson’s appearance before a grand jury earlier this year had to do with the Angelo Reyes arson investigation, not with this matter.)
The DeStefano administration made the latest matter about the FBI subpoena public a week and a half ago when it posted on the city website a detailed transition report prepared for the incoming Harp administration. The LCI portion of the report included this paragraph: “Current the FBI has an open investigation on some of LCI past activities. The FBI has requested copies of liens that have been issued by the Department in 2012 and 2013. No other information has been requested. Copy of the subpoena is available upon request or should be addressed as part of the Office of Corporation Council transition memorandum.”