ATLANTIC CITY — The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating federal loans awarded to five separate properties owned by an indicted former City Council vice president.
State investigators have confiscated city files documenting loans received by previous owners of land now owned by former at-large Councilwoman Cassandra McCall-Clark. A state grand jury indicted McCall-Clark last month on official misconduct charges, accusing her of using her authority to purchase one city-owned parcel for low costs through a straw purchaser.
Responding to a request for records, Lois Braithwaite, director of the city’s Community Development Block Grants division, or CDBG, which handles the loans — known as VIP loans — told The Press of Atlantic City that the files on the loans are not available because state investigators took them.
McCall-Clark, 52, who had worked in the CDBG office before becoming a councilwoman, owns an extensive portfolio of properties throughout the city. Documents obtained by The Press show five of those parcels received a total of $63,094.92 in loans.
“Unfortunately, any rehab files on these properties are in the hands of the attorney general, so I was not able to get anymore details than our database,” Braithwaite wrote in her response to the records request.
All of the loans were awarded before McCall-Clark became coordinator of the city’s Neighborhood Preservation Program in the CDBG office, before she bought the properties in question and before she obtained her council seat. However, of the available files provided by the city, all of the loans were dismissed after her election and during her time as a councilwoman.
McCall-Clark abstained on a vote that forgave $3,500 in VIP loan debt incurred by residents Michael Johnson and Harold Camper. The two were awarded a $14,210 loan in 1988 to rehabilitate their property at 625 Drexel Ave.
In November 2004, the city dismissed the mortgage on the loan, despite Johnson and Camper only paying $10,710.
“No one seems to know what happened to the $3,500 difference,” Braithwaite wrote regarding the loan.
The loan payments were monitored by the Atlantic County Improvement Authority, according to an Oct. 14, 2004, memo written by Tom Monaghan, a city budget officer. Monaghan speculated that the authority’s comptroller, George Boileau, might have inaccurately listed the starting amount of mortgage, which led to the discrepancy.
Boileau, reached by phone last week, said it is possible the authority never gave the property the full $14,210. However, all city documents regarding the loan show the city, through the authority, dispersed $14,210.
Both Monaghan and Robert Lashley, an executive assistant in the CDBG program, suggested that the remaining balance be forgiven by council because Johnson and Camper “showed good faith” by making their other payments.
By the time council voted to forgive the remaining debt, McCall-Clark’s company, Rose Garden Research and Development LLC, already had bought the property a month earlier for $65,000. It is now valued at $147,500.
Johnson, who managed the successful 2001 campaign of Mayor Lorenzo Langford, and his running mate, McCall-Clark, said he did not remember any unpaid amount on the loan. He also said he has not been approached by investigators but would be “open to any questions they might have.”
Another property owned by Rose Garden Research, 1306 Adriatic Ave., saw all three of its loans dismissed by the city during McCall-Clark’s tenure on council. The loans, totaling $30,001.57, were owned by Constance McCall, a relative of McCall-Clark’s.
Although the loans were awarded on different days in 1992 and 1993, the city dismissed them all on the same day, June 11, 2003. Mortgage-discharge documents in the Atlantic County Clerk’s Office do not detail exactly why the city dismissed the mortgages — whether they were fully satisfied or if a certain amount was forgiven.
Five months after the loans were dismissed, Constance McCall died and left her property to daughters Patricia Carpenter and Ramona McCall. In June 2004, Rose Garden Research bought the property — currently valued at $115,600 - for $10,000.
About five months before McCall-Clark bought the parcel, the former councilwoman filed a lawsuit against the estate of Constance McCall to “obtain possession of the premises ... and to eject the defendant,” the suit reads.
Attorney Joseph Dougherty represented McCall-Clark and Rose Garden Research in the case. Dougherty is a former deputy city solicitor and still worked in the resort’s Law Department when he filed the suit.
The Attorney General’s Office recently subpoenaed the city, seeking a wide range of documents concerning Dougherty during his time as a city attorney and outside counsel, dating to 1999.
Rose Garden Research is co-owned by McCall-Clark’s husband, Austin Clark, a redevelopment assistant in the city’s CDBG office since 2003.
Clark, who is Braithwaite’s brother-in-law, partnered with his wife on several properties, including two separate parcels on Maryland and Baltic avenues. Their purchase of those properties, owned through Rose Garden Research, led to McCall-Clark’s indictment.
A state grand jury handed down charges of official misconduct against McCall-Clark last month, claiming she voted to sell city-owned land in 2002 to a now-deceased friend who privately agreed to buy the land for the councilwoman and transfer it to her private corporation.
If convicted, McCall-Clark faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine. She is scheduled to be in court Thursday morning before Superior Court Judge Albert Garofolo. She has not been arraigned on the charge.
Policy prohibits state officials from discussing the details of an investigation. However, after McCall-Clark’s indictment last month, authorities said their investigation is ongoing.