Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
The dump profiled in last week's issue.
In last week's issue of the City Paper we profiled a seemingly intractable struggle between a resident of Point Breeze and a contractor who was illegally dumping on land owned in part by Claudia Sherrod, the executive director of civic group South Philadelphia H.O.M.E.S. In that story, Sherrod struggled to explain why she had been unable to stop a man from operating an illegal dump on her land, or why none of the complaints she said she filed were recorded by L&I or the local police district. Sherrod announced her retirement as leader of the civic group after we went to press but a day before our story hit newsstands.
However, she leaves many unanswered questions in her wake, including a series of questionable real-estate transactions connected to her nonprofit.
City records indicate that the board of SPH voted in 2008 to transfer ownership of their headquarters at 1444 Point Breeze Ave. to Sherrod and her husband, Roy Sherrod, at no cost. According to a document issued by the board that same year, the move was intended to "give the building back into the hands of the person who gave the building to SPH" and indicates that Sherrod would rent the property back to the organization.
The problem is that that property had actually been given to SPH by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) for $1 just five years earlier, a move designed to furnish the organization with a headquarters for the foreseeable future. Sherrod responded to inquiries about the move by saying that she and her husband had shouldered $45,000 worth of renovation costs and "was requested by [the PRA] to put the building in my name."
Paul Chrystie, spokesmen for the PRA, contradicted Sherrod's statement.
"The City and PRA frequently convey property to community development corporations at nominal cost for redevelopment. Doing so is part of and consistent with the mission to promote redevelopment," he said, "Neither the City nor PRA seek to have an executive director take ownership, and did not seek that in this specific instance."
Mortgage records show loans taken out by SPH itself and not by the Sherrods; those appear to be building-improvement loans worth $56,000.
While it is not illegal for Sherrod's organization to give her a building, now valued at around $155,000, that it received from the city for free, it does appear unethical. Furthermore, while yearly taxes on the structure had amounted to only $380 annually prior to AVI, SPH now spends $5,000 a year on rental fees, according to their financial disclosure statements. Sherrod would not confirm whether this money is paid to her directly.
1314 S. 22nd St., the previous headquarters of SPH, was purchased by the organization for $5,000 in 1997. It was later sold for $25,000 in 2003 to Adib Waheed, president of the SPH board. That property is now assessed at a value of $172,000.
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