"That's fraud," she said. "And we are going to be investigating that."
Rochart defended her stumping, saying she used the term "earmark" to mean she had the applications for the money ready to go. But she said she never submitted them after $2.5 million in planned private donations from three major donors fell through because of the economy.
"It was mostly going to be private funding," Rochart said. "If all the private funding had come in, we wouldn't have even had to go to the foundations."
City commissioners who recommended that New Horizons receive the grants said they were alarmed to hear the project's other funding sources had not been confirmed before the stimulus funding was allocated.
"The assumption that the [Community Development Block Grant] Committee makes is that the staff has done the legwork in terms of making sure the minimum requirements have been met," said then-Chairman Zareh Amirian, who now serves on the Audit Commission.
City officials had warned the committee that other projects were more shovel-ready than the New Horizons project.
"To be perfectly honest, we aren't sure that we can say that the New Horizons project would be ready to start construction by Dec. 15," Jess Duran, assistant director Community Services & Parks Department, said at a June 2009 committee meeting.
But when he later addressed the City Council on the issue, he did not mention those concerns.
In a recent interview, Duran said city officials had to rely on the documentation they received, including the mention of a significant anonymous donor.
"We did not see the signs," he said. "New Horizons had been demonstrating up to this point that they were effective at fundraising and completing projects."