Greene County small business program payments possibly ‘duplicative,’ auditor says

Greene County didn’t use federal CARES Act funds to offer a rental assistance program like Montgomery County did, but it spent $1 million on 127 grants of up to $10,000 for local businesses, including property management companies.

A Dayton Daily News review of Greene County program records found one payment that the county auditor says is questionable, but that county officials say was in line with program rules.

Richard Demko was reimbursed $1,800 through the program for rent he paid at his antique shop in Spring Valley, Red Barn Salvage. The application for funds says COVID-19 has had “a negative impact on sales.”

The Spring Valley property is owned by Richard Demko’s wife, Stephanie Demko, through a company called RBS Real Estate Investments. She applied for reimbursement for the mortgage, utilities and business insurance at the building. In her application, she says the only two tenants are her husband’s antique shop and a residence.

“Due to COVID-19 I have not been able to collect the $1,071 average required monthly rent due from my tenants that they typically pay,” the application says. “They have been negatively impacted by the pandemic as well.”

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The county paid $6,442 for that claim to Richard and Stephanie Demko.

Reached by phone, Stephanie Demko referred all questions to her husband, saying he “handled all of that.”

Richard Demko said he followed all of Greene County’s rules for the program. He would not say if there was an overpayment, but said if there was, it was the county’s fault, not theirs.

“Any information you need needs to come from them, because I gave them everything they asked for and was honest and upfront about every piece of information and documentation,” he said. “I was reimbursed for money I paid out of my pocket based on the criteria of Greene County,”

Richard Demko noted that there were two tenants in the property but would not say if the $1,071 average monthly rent noted in the application was just for the residential tenant. “Ask Greene County,” he said.

Provided this information by the Dayton Daily News, Greene County Auditor David Graham said, “It would appear that duplicative reimbursements for the same expense may have been made.”

Graham noted the grant program was administered by the department of development under the county commissioners, not his office.

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“While I would agree this appears to be a duplicative payment for the same type of expenditure, I don’t know the rules of the program and don’t necessarily have all of the information I would need to make that determination,” he said.

Kristie Tidd, manager of the department of development, said the antique shop and property management company are two different registered businesses, and both provided documentation proving their eligibility.

“Many applicants provided lengthy narratives explaining their unique situations during the COVID shutdown, and how it affected their businesses,” she said. “These narratives were instrumental in telling the stories of individual businesses impacted by the pandemic but were not used to determine eligibility beyond establishing that the business had in fact been impacted in a negative way by the pandemic.”

She said the program had strict grading criteria that did not include cross-referencing applications against one another.

“Grading projects using criteria outside of the publicized requirements of the program would assuredly be less equitable and fair to business owners,” she said. “These are two separate businesses under law and that is how we awarded these funds.”

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