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November 13, 2013

Possible Use of Federal Dollars in Settlement of Mount Holly Case

By

The city council of Mount Holly, N. J. has scheduled a town meeting tonight to discuss the proposed settlement of its Supreme Court case, Township of Mount Holly v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action. The Obama administration is worried about the possibility of a decision striking down the disparate-impact approach to civil-rights enforcement under the Fair Housing Act, and wants to avoid that result at all costs. The question is what it’s doing to avoid it.

The money for an important part of the Mt. Holly settlement will reportedly come from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), which describes itself as “a national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization” that “has invested $1.2 billion in Mid-Atlantic communities since 1985.” According to the Wall Street Journal, its president for policy solutions, Ira Goldstein, is a former HUD chief and “a vocal advocate for disparate impact.”

On November 13, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Donald Hinkle-Brown, the CEO of TRF, asking for information about TRF’s involvement in this settlement. As the letter points out, TRF “has received substantial amounts of federal dollars in recent years,” including $12 million in HUD stimulus money as well as $6 million in grants, of which $4.5 million came from the Obama administration’s Treasury Department. The letter seeks “all documents and communications” shedding more light on the administration’s role in the settlement of this case and requests TRF to preserve all relevant documents, including any “communications sent or received using a personal (non-Reinvestment Fund) e-mail account.”

This last request is obviously being made because of the Committee’s discovery when it was investigating the dismissal of the prior disparate-impact case involving the City of St. Paul that former assistant attorney general for civil rights (now secretary of labor) Thomas Perez had used his personal e-mail to send communications related to that dismissal. The letter also reminds TRF that “intentional obstruction of a congressional investigation is a crime.”

The involvement of an organization that is a significant receiver of federal funds from the Obama administration in the settlement of the Mount Holly case raises important questions about this case that should be answered before the town and its residents make any decision about the proposed settlement.

- Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in National Review Online.

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