Sweetgrass Development has applied for another EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant without proof of work for the last grant awarded, without having a board meeting in over 2 years and without appearing to have even one employee.
Sweetgrass Development has an address in Great Falls, Montana. Sweetgrass Development also has a website which lists the Executive Director as their sole contact. What Sweetgrass doesn’t appear to have is proof of work, regular board meetings and, based upon the last meeting minutes, may not have any employees at all working on the Brownfields Grant; which Sweetgrass received $400,000 for in early 2016. Not surprisingly, none other than our “man pulling the strings” Llew Jones sits on the board of Sweetgrass Development
This is how Sweetgrass describes its Brownfields work on its website:
” Sweetgrass Development helps landowners remove environmental barriers to redevelopment on Brownfields sites within Glacier, Cascade, Pondera, Teton and Toole counties, as well as the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.
That all sounds great for a website, but is any of it actually true? According to our research on the Sweetgrass Website, we cannot find proof of any work that Sweetgrass has completed. Furthermore, based on the last meeting minutes from November 2016, their sole employee quit and took off with the office equipment provided to do her job.
Administrative Report: An employee was hired for the Brownfields project, but after attending an initial training, she failed to come to work. Sarah has sent a letter to the former employee and is going through the process to get office equipment returned. Discussion of hiring a new employee will be addressed in January or the next meeting
One of the problems here is that there never was a January meeting, nor has there been one since. So the obvious question becomes, who is actually working on the Brownfields Grant if there are no employees?
Lastly, the Economic Development Action Plan Implementation chart on their own website is basically blank with most all of the goals and beginning dates empty. See here (pg. 22-32)
So, let’s take a minute to quickly re-cap.
- Sweetgrass Development is applying for a second Brownfields Grant, likely for 2019.
- There seems to be no audit trail, nor any proof of completed work, for their first grant of $400,000 in early 2016
- Available records indicate that Sweetgrass Development has not had a board meeting for over 2 years
- Available records indicate that Sweetgrass has hired one employee since it received its first grant of $400,000. Said employee ditched the company training and took her laptop with her.
- The “Action Plan” listed on Sweetgrass’s website is basically blank with the only entries being ones of projects slated to begin in December of 2019
- The “man pulling the strings,” Llew Jones, is on the board, so we know there is money involved
In closing, we would submit that just because we cannot find the proof of the work Sweetgrass has completed on their website doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. We would certainly like to see proof, if it exists, before Sweetgrass is awarded another government grant.
Lastly, how does Llew Jones, public servant, always seem to end up where the money is? Llew wouldn’t be using his position in the legislature to enrich himself or his family and friends would he? Stay tuned.