Theoretically, the audit recently completed by the state Department of Community and Economic Development only examines the ledgers of the Allegheny Center for the Arts Anchor Grant and the failure of that particular project.
Under the direction of GROWarren - which, depending on who you ask is either dead or in a deep coma - the project was funded through a $500,000 grant from DCED that was funneled through the City of Warren. The grant would be repaid through the rents at the new ACA and then recycled to promote other economic development projects in the city.
That didn't happen. The money is gone; the contractor never got what was owed to him; and the city's chances of building that revolving loan fund appear to be gone.
With any luck, the audit report to be released by the DCED in the next couple weeks will shed some light on what went wrong.
But, the ACA Anchor project was only one aspect of GROWarren's activity during its short, and sometimes mysterious, lifespan. Its headquarters on Second Avenue, now empty and sporting a "for rent" sign was also the mailing address of a number of other "organizations" that sprouted up over that time period and now seem to have drifted into obscurity. What, exactly, was GROWarren's relationship with these various partners?
The biggest problem with unraveling the alphabet soup of limited corporations, partnerships and venture capital groups associated with the city's downtown planner and promoter is that during its active months it was both public and private, receiving funding from taxpayers as well as entrepreneuers. Because of that public-private existence it lived under the radar of most laws governing the public's right to know.
When asked about the progress on some aspect of its list of pending projects, the return was hazy or simply that no information would be forthcoming until the project was final.
For that reason, we would suggest that curious members of Warren City Council ask for an independent audit of all of GROWarren's activities, and justify that request based on the public money and public trust that was placed in the organization over its lifetime.