SUNBURY - Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi did not vote to approve the homelessness prevention grant that has been the focus of much attention over the past eight months.

There is confusion over the issue stemming in part from the fact that Clausi did vote in 2009 to approve the county's submission of the "grant application," but he was not in attendance at a later meeting at which the "grant agreement" was approved.

The Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) grant was provided to the county by the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and was funded by federal stimulus money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Clausi has repeatedly noted he was against the program, for which DCED says the county must repay $215,150 out of $365,361 because it did not provide

adequate documentation for a majority of the claims.

Commissioner Richard Shoch suggests Clausi has overplayed his opposition to the program considering his approval of the application and that he didn't actually vote against the agreement.

Shoch acknowledges it's "irrelevant" whether Clausi approved the grant, and said his larger concern is Clausi's defensive stance in response to DCED's questions about the program and how he "repeatedly misleads the public" about his past actions.

But Clausi says Shoch is the one misleading the public by suggesting he didn't oppose the program. When Shoch said at Tuesday's commissioners' meeting that Clausi didn't vote against the program as he claims, Clausi did not dispute it, asking only to move on. But he said later this week Shoch's comments in the newspaper made Clausi look like a liar. Clausi said it was the latest in Shoch's repeated attempts to embarrass him. He further questions how Shoch could know what happened in 2009 when he wasn't in office at the time.

2009 votes

The grant application was approved on July 21, 2009, by a 3-0 vote from Clausi and former Commissioners Kurt Masser and Chairman Frank Sawicki. Clausi said this week that, at the time, he thought it sounded like a good program.

In September, prior to final approval, Clausi said the commissioners and several county department heads were present for a phone call to Beverly Hutzel, grant manager at DCED, to ask more questions. Clausi said they were told DCED wasn't certain of all the details, especially in regard to hirings related to the program. He said he was concerned the county would be "stuck" with new employees when the funding expired.

Clausi said Sawicki maintained the county should proceed, which Clausi said upset him and he left the meeting.

Clausi said Sawicki added a motion to approve the grant agreement to the agenda of the Oct. 20, 2009, meeting, at which Clausi was not present. Minutes show Masser and Sawicki approved the program.

Clausi said he didn't know about the motion and was so angry when he learned the program was approved he refused to sign his name to any matters voted on at that meeting.