In the News
An Important Message from the Board of Directors....
The Wilmington Land Bank Remains Focused on Its Mission
The Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank’s (WNCLB) staff and Board of Directors have been cooperating for the past year with the Attorney General’s Office on matters related to the Land Bank’s former Executive Director. While the investigation and subsequent indictment are unsettling and disturbing, the attention of the staff and Board continues to be focused on the Land Bank’s mission to improve Wilmington’s neighborhoods.
When staff and Board Members became aware of financial irregularities in March of 2020, the Attorney General’s office was contacted immediately and information was provided which the Land Bank felt needed to be reviewed and investigated. In addition to engaging in discussions with the AG’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust at that time, the WNCLB hired an independent auditing firm to review the agency’s financial records. It was determined that this matter has not affected in any way the financial strength of the WNCLB.
Richard Gessner, Chairman of the WNCLB said today, “We will not allow the poor decisions of a former executive director to interfere with the positive affect that the WNCLB is having in preserving deteriorating neighborhoods. We remain committed to our mission and the work that is underway with community members, housing preservation partners, and the City of Wilmington”.
The WNCLB was created in 2016 through State and City legislation in order to return vacant, dilapidated, abandoned, and delinquent properties back to productive use. Since 2018, the Land Bank has repurposed 120 properties for affordable homeownership, side yard additions to properties, and affordable rentals. Over 65% of Land Bank applicants are from the City of Wilmington because City residents understand the benefits of reinvesting in their own communities.
DCRPT indicts two public officials
DOJ has indicted nine public officials in Jennings' term
Attorney General Kathy Jennings and the DOJ’s Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust (DCRPT) announced the indictments of two public officials, William Freeborn and Rebecca Walker.
“We cannot and will not tolerate violations of the public trust,” said Attorney General Jennings. “We fought hard to make DCRPT a permanent part of our office, and these cases are a reminder of why its mission is so important. Nobody should be beneath justice, and nobody – no matter their title – should be above the law.”
The indictments allege that between February 1, 2019 and May 17, 2020, Freeborn – who at that time was Executive Director of the Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank – knowingly accepted at least $28,000 in unauthorized cash deposits for properties that, despite his misrepresentations, did not belong to the Land Bank. Freeborn was charged Monday with Theft by False Promise and Misapplication of Property, both Class G Felonies, and with Official Misconduct, a Class A Misdemeanor. If convicted, Freeborn could face up to five years in prison.
The DOJ urges anyone who knows of illegal transactions solicited by Freeborn, or anyone else misrepresenting the Wilmington Land Bank, to contact DCRPT at (302) 577-5400 or email@example.com. Public trust complaints may also be submitted online at de.gov/dcrptcomplaint.
In the second case, the indictment outlines that between May 8, 2015 and February 3, 2020, Walker – in her capacity as Deputy Director of the Division of Forensic Science – falsified the records of multiple employees under her supervision, claiming that the employees passed alcohol tests that they never received. Walker is charged with Falsifying Business Records, Offering a False Instrument for Filing, and Official Misconduct, all Class A Misdemeanors, and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Walker is currently the Director of Nursing at the Delaware Division of Health and Social Services.
The Division of Forensic Science and the Land Bank both alerted DCRPT independently after discovering the defendants’ conduct.
The cases are being prosecuted by Director Mark Denney and Deputy Attorney General Nicole Mozee of the Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust, with support and assistance from Deputy Attorney General Brian Robertson and Forensic Accountant Clyde Hartman of the DOJ’s White Collar Crime Unit. DOJ Special Investigators John Ziemba and Frank Robinson led the investigations.