Genesis Scandal Figure Back at City Hall
A person who headed Cincinnati’s now defunct Neighborhood Services Department before retiring several years ago — after she was transferred and questioned about her role in the Genesis Redevelopment scandal in the West End — is back at City Hall.
Cheryl Meadows, formerly a department director, recently was hired as executive director for the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC). She quietly began her job Aug. 14, and the agency made no public announcement about the hiring.
Meadows replaces Norma Holt-Davis, an attorney and ex-director of Cincinnati’s NAACP chapter who was expected to begin the job in June but rescinded her acceptance under murky circumstances before she ever started.
The CHRC monitors hate crimes and tries to ease tensions among different racial, cultural and religious groups. Although not a municipal agency that reports to the city manager, the CHRC receives its entire budget from the city.
Before her retirement from city service, Meadows was transferred in summer 2000 to a new job as director of the city’s employment and training division, after months of complaints and investigations about misspent and unaccounted funds in the Neighborhood Services Department. The department’s functions were later folded into the Community Development Department.
More recently, Meadows served as Lincoln Heights village manager.
Six years ago Meadows offered contradictory testimony in two appearances before Cincinnati City Council during an investigation into possible misuse of taxpayer money by the West End Community Council and Genesis Redevelopment Inc., a related group.
For about a decade beginning in 1991, the community council and Genesis received more than $825,000 and promised to build 130 housing units, but built just one house and repaired 11 other units. Most of the money came from federal grants administered by the city. Board executives included several well-connected West End residents such as George Beatty, who now owns Junebug’s Bar-B-Que and Steaks, as board president; his brother, Howard, who is now awaiting a verdict in a murder trial, also was a board member.
In July 2000, Meadows told city council that she didn’t feel political pressure to approve questionable funding for the West End Community Council. During earlier testimony in February 2000, however, Meadows said city council directed her to continue funding despite the problems, but she couldn’t cite specific motions or votes.
“I was not alone in my support of Genesis. There was encouragement to work with Genesis,” Meadows said at the time. “(Council members) came to us and said not to press too hard on Genesis.”
A city audit concluded that payments were improperly made to the two groups’ board members and their relatives, that other payments couldn’t be accounted for and that the groups hadn’t completed the work agreed to in contracts with the city.
Also, the audit found $82,000 in reimbursement claims were paid to the West End Community Council, most of which went to the group’s officers and their families. Further, the audit concluded that Genesis received about $1,889 in duplicate payments and $6,317 in payments for questionable expenses. City files lacked sufficient records to justify an additional $10,997 in payments to Genesis.
— Kevin Osborne