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Director of Greensburg Development Corp., wife propose lofts; board president sees no conflict of interest

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 12:12 a.m.

The president of the Greensburg Community Development Corp. board expressed confidence the group's executive director can separate his job from his private development business.

Executive Director Steve Gifford and his wife, Rhonda, are the principals in A.B. Mac Properties LLC. They have proposed constructing a 15-unit apartment building, ParkSide Lofts, on East Otterman Street.

Gifford's duties with the city group focus on bringing development to Greensburg.

“We have absolutely no concerns about that,” President Judy Mizikar said about the situation. “Steve has high character, and he's never withheld any information from a developer for his own development.”

Gifford said he met with the group's executive committee in June 2012 and explained he was considering sites for a possible development.

In March, Gifford said, he informed the development board of his decision to construct an apartment building.

“The board and members of the executive committee are supportive of our plans and believe no conflict exists,” Gifford said. “I have been putting work into the project during the evenings and weekends outside my full-time job as the director. This was the only expectation of the board.”

When Gifford ap-proached the board, he expressed concerns that he didn't want to put the agency in a “bad light,” Mizikar said.

“He was very forthcoming with the information,” she said. “He was concerned about our opinion and the public's opinion. It was the general consensus that Steve is so involved in Greensburg ... that he's putting personal funds in.”

His job will prevent the Giffords from seeking public grants or tax credits to help with the project, said Gifford and Barbara Ciampini, city planner and member of the development board's executive committee.

The project, which includes demolition of a building, will have to be funded through a bank or similar financial institution, Gifford said.

The city development board adopted a conflict-of-interest statement about six years ago and revised it earlier this year.

The policy applies to employees and board members, most of whom are business people in the community, said member Jeff Anzovino, a certified public accountant.

“We were in the process of (revising) rules and practices so that (a conflict) didn't happen,” he said. “Obviously, everybody on the board wants to make sure it's all done above board.”

Anzovino said he had concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest when Gifford told the board he and his wife planned to move ahead with their project.

But as part of usual practices, Anzovino said, the board reviews all plans that Gifford has been hand-ling before finalization.

The policy states that development board members are not to use their positions to “advance their personal interests or the interest of related persons.”

The Giffords, through Greensburg attorney Michael Stewart, formed A.B. Mac in March, according to papers filed with the state Corporation Bureau.

Steve Gifford said he has been trying to market the property — vacant for over two decades — for more than four years, but got no takers. Most found the building to be too dilapidated to reuse, he said.

“This isn't the first time we'd tried to market this. He's putting his money where his mouth is,” Ciampini said. “I see nothing wrong. I think it's a fantastic project.”

Gifford described the project as about “80 percent” certain at this point.

The city Historic and Review board this week approved exterior designs. The city planning commission will have to review the plans, probably next month.

In addition, city council must endorse approvals given by the city advisory boards.

“He's excited about it, and we're excited about it,” Mizikar said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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