DUQUESNE, Pa. - More than $1 million dollars was taken out of a local city's coffers, just before a change in leadership, 11 Investigates has learned.
Now the city of Duquesne is working to recover that money, starting with suing its own redevelopment authority for transferring the money to a private nonprofit organization, a move the mayor believes was illegal.
It sets up a court battle that could determine which direction the struggling city will turn.
Duquesne is one of the poorest cities in Pennsylvania, with 40% of its population living in poverty.
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But who should be in charge of helping get Duquesne back on its feet could be decided by a judge.
“We're going to go for the money first and then after that we're going to redevelop our community,” said Nickole Nesby, the mayor of Duquesne.
The city is suing its own redevelopment authority for transferring more than $1.3 million to the private Duquesne Business Advisory Corp. just days before the newly-elected mayor was sworn in to office.
Several former city officials have roles with the corporation.
Duquesne is suing its OWN Redevelopment Authority for transferring more than $1.3 million to a private non-profit days before the new mayor took office. Why a judge could determine the future of the impoverished city on #WPXI at 6https://t.co/bNlJKRkIcU— Aaron Martin (@WPXIAaronMartin) March 12, 2018
According to the lawsuit, "The authority lacks the power under the Urban Redevelopment Law to transfer revolving loan funds to a private corporation."
“They moved the funds four days before I actually took office,” Nesby said. “I was upset. When I look at the community as it is, as a whole, why wasn't it reinvested into the community?”
An attorney for the corporation declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, but said the nonprofit works to help businesses in the community, adding, "We’re confident the actions that were taken were clearly permitted by the law.”
The attorney representing the redevelopment authority declined to comment.
Nesby also claims the Allegheny County Housing Authority and the county's Economic Development Office owe Duquesne more than $350,000 in back taxes.
Both agencies did not return 11 Investigates' calls.
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