Emanuel Freeman, former executive director of Germantown Settlement and the Greater Germantown Housing Development Corporation, appeared in court yesterday to explain why he didn’t show up for a court ordered deposition on Monday. In doing so, he also shed some light on a few questions about who now controls the remaining Germantown Settlement related assets.
Freeman cancelled Monday’s deposition and failed to provide required documents because he was grieving for the loss of a family member, he said.
Federal judge Stephen Raslavich ordered the examination of Freeman in June after Irv Ackelsberg, legal counsel for the community group Germantown Community Connection, convinced him Freeman could still be in control of many properties developed with public funds through subsidiaries of the now bankrupt Germantown Settlement companies.
Germantown Settlement and its subsidiaries have received massive amounts of public funding in the decades Freeman controlled the organizations. The groups were the subject of a federal investigation, were cut off from city funding in 2009 and face millions in bankruptcy debt.
In his brief appearance, Freeman admitted he indeed still does retain personal control of some of these assets, after some prodding by Raslavich.
Freeman began his explanation for why he failed to provide requested documents pertaining to 16 related real estate companies, the assets of which do not clearly fall under the bankruptcy filings, by saying the management relationships for some of the real estate companies are sometimes complicated.
“For example,” Freeman began, but was interrupted by the judge.
“Not ‘for example,” Raslavich said. “Every one. Name the entity and name the man [who manages the records].”
Freeman admitted to still controlling nine, and possibly 10, of the companies. Among the assets previously associated with the companies he named are up to 30 scattered site houses, three subsidized apartment buildings and a strip mall.
The tenth company, MW Manor Limited Partnership, runs Cricket Court Commons, a 200-plus unit, multi building apartment complex in West Germantown, which GGHDC was given by the city and developed using low income tax credits and $9 million in public grants. Several years ago Freeman ceded some of his control of the complex to a New Jersey company, Ingerman Group, which was also an original partner to the deal. Freeman wasn’t sure exactly how much control he still maintained.
“There’s a question in that, your honor, because there is a partner involved and I’m not sure I have full authority,” Freeman said.
Another former top Settlement executive, Bruce Tabbs, is also still in the picture. Tabbs runs the Germantown Housing and Land Holding Company, which Freeman said manages most of the companies he still controls. The office of Tabbs’ company is in the Hamill Mill apartment building, the chief holding of one of Freeman’s remaining nine companies. It is a subsidized rental business and was also built using public funds.
In direct response to questions from Raslavich, Freeman said he never destroyed any records relating to the Settlement companies, nor did he personally have any, except for a small handful he presented to Ackelsberg and U.S. Trustee Gary Seitz in court.
Freeman promised to provide the requested documents, which include bank statements for all the subsidiary companies, and appear at the new court ordered deposition August 8.
Raslavich said he would send U.S. Marshals to go get him if he doesn’t show up.
Correction: In an earlier version of this article NewsWorks misidentified a development partner in the Cricket Court project. NewsWorks regrets the error.