Eureka Gardens background, investigation timeline

By Lynnsey Gardner - Investigative reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Rev. Richard Hamlet's Global Ministries Foundation is in the process of selling 11 troubled properties, including all of its Jacksonville holdings.

Eureka Gardens on Jacksonville's Westside and Washington Heights in Northwest Jacksonville have been the center of a monthslong I-TEAM investigation into deplorable living conditions at the federally subsidized housing complexes.

Our series of investigative reports led to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development invalidating its own inspection score for Eureka Gardens, the city conducting a code-enforcement raid spearheaded by Mayor Lenny Curry, and a response on Capitol Hill from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who successfully pushed for the passage of three amendments to overhaul the HUD inspection process.

Rubio also has requested federal investigations of GMF by the Justice and Treasury departments, HUD and a Senate committee, telling the I-TEAM those requests were “exclusively” due to our reports.

The series has already been awarded “Best Continuing Coverage” by the Florida Associated Press.

GMF owns 61 properties in eight states, including several in Memphis, Tennessee, that are the source of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by one of the foundation's investors.

GMF's portfolio is worth about $500 million, and Hamlet draws an annual salary of $530,000. GMF also employs Hamlet's wife and three adult children.

TIMELINE

September

I-TEAM begins digging into reports of unsanitary living conditions at Eureka Gardens.

October

City conducts code enforcement sweep and Mayor Lenny Curry visits Eureka Gardens. The city, which inspected 163 of 400 units at the complex, finds 340 code violations.

Based on conditions brought to light by the I-TEAM and the city's raid, HUD re-evaluates the passing inspection score given to Eureka Gardens. The score of 85 is voided.

I-TEAM uncovers that the bond deal that brought GMF to Jacksonville skirted city protocol and was approved directly by then-Mayor Alvin Brown, rather than the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority. City Councilman Bill Gulliford submits a proposal to change city policy to prevent bad deals from being pushed through in the future.

Eureka Gardens suffers a major gas leak, and the fire marshal blames property management. GMF apologizes for the incident.

November

Another major gas leak is reported at the complex.

I-TEAM travels to Memphis to learn more about similar deplorable living conditions at GMF properties there.

December

HUD orders Hamlet to return $1 million in distributions from the last three years for Eureka Gardens.

February

GMF loses its HUD contract in Memphis, forcing hundreds of families to relocate.

GMF announces Eureka Gardens has passed HUD's re-inspection of the property.

March

HUD extends contract with GMF to run Eureka Gardens for one year.

April

HUD releases the inspection score for Eureka Gardens, which earned a 62c. A passing score is 60.

Mold inspection report is released for the complex showing 248 of 400 units had elevated levels of mold spores.

Curry visits Washington Heights, another federally subsidized housing complex in Jacksonville owned by GMF. He says he wants to hear the residents' concerns. The biggest is mold.

Curry and City Councilman Garrett Dennis visit HUD secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Marco Rubio in Washington, D.C., to discuss the plight of Eureka Gardens and Washington Heights tenants. Castro promises the full resources of the federal government to solve the problems at the properties.

May

Real estate broker hired by GMF lists 11 properties for sale, including all of the foundation's Jacksonville holdings.

GMF is stripped of management powers at its Memphis properties as the result of a federal lawsuit filed by one of its investors.

Spurred by the I-TEAM's investigation, Rubio visits Eureka Gardens and calls for four federal investigations into the property's owner. The Senate also passes a bill containing several amendments proposed by Rubio that would revamp HUD's inspection process.

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