More scrutiny for Sunshine

”To provide affordable, decent, safe and sanitary housing to low- to moderate-income families giving them the opportunity to become homeowners.”

This is the description of the mission of Sunshine of Warren-Trumbull, Inc., which was provided on its Form-990 return to the IRS. It is a laudable mission, but it is clearly not being fulfilled by the organization under its present administration.

Sunshine was created by the City of Warren and Trumbull County in 1993 using federal HOME grants to provide low income residents with housing. It has used money from the city and HUD to buy, build and rehab homes.

Currently it owns 87 properties, 57 of which have back taxes owed on them. In fact, Sunshine owes over $188,000 in back property taxes and penalties. Almost half of those properties are vacant.

Some of the properties on which back taxes are owed are being sold on land contract. The buyers of these properties are making monthly payments with the property taxes included, and yet it appears that Sunshine has not been paying those property taxes with that money. Director Anthony Iannucci needs to explain where that money went.

Sunshine has properties on Warren’s demolition and condemned lists, and has had properties demolished. Some of its properties are in dire need of repairs. Some have been damaged so severely by tenants that they required additional rehabbing.

The idea of this organization was originally sold as a way not only to help low income people own homes, but also to help eliminate blight. It seems like the agency is now actually creating the blight that it was supposed to eliminate.

Keep in mind that properties were purchased, rehabbed (some more than once) and demolished all with taxpayer dollars. The penalties of $22,600 for not paying the property taxes in a timely manner will also be funded by taxpayers.

I commend Warren City Council for meeting recently with Iannucci, and for questioning him. I think, however, that council members need to do more.

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, suggested a performance audit. That would be wise. Mr. Iannucci has claimed that as a private corporation, Sunshine does not have to provide details of how money has been spent. Perhaps he forgets that the funding for Sunshine comes from taxpayer funds, and the public should have a right to know how these funds have been spent.

I’ve looked at the 990-forms filed by Sunshine for the years 2010 and 2011, the latter of which was filed in November of last year. In 2011, Sunshine received over $200,000 in government grants. It ended the year with $216,221 in net revenues. Where did that money go?

I am also curious about Mr. Iannucci. Mr. Iannucci is not just the Director at Sunshine where, according to the 990 form, he worked an average of 20 hours per week and made $37,700 in 2011. Since 2005, Mr. Iannucci has also been director of Warren Redevelopment and Planning, another non-profit, which operates on a contract with the City of Warren. He receives an annual salary of $34,800 for that job on which he works 40 hours per week, according to the forms.

In a performance update with City Council, done at the request of Councilwoman Helen Rucker, Iannucci claimed that WRAP had been involved in attracting 11 new businesses to Warren. Included in that list was Sunset Lounge, the now closed site of a New Year’s Day murder. After that incident, Mr. Iannucci backtracked and said the WRAP didn’t actually help Sunset open, but they approved a sign for the business. I have to wonder if City Council can really trust anything that Mr. Iannucci tells them.

He is also president of Warren Parking Systems, which has the contract to oversee parking in the downtown. This organization is losing money. Mr. Iannucci is also the program director for Warren Business Exchange.

The only thing these agencies seem to be succeeding at is providing Iannucci with an income.

City Council must let the sun shine on Anthony Iannucci and the organizations that he runs.

Yoder is a West Farmington resident.