Fairborn candidate responds to investigation that found her compliant with receiving federal COVID relief funds

An investigation into Fairborn awarding federal COVID relief money to a local business owner running for city council this fall has the found candidate was compliant to apply and receive the funds.

Sylvia Chess “was compliant with the application and use requirements” of the city and of American Rescue Plan Act guidelines, Fairborn Solicitor Mike McNamee said in a legal opinion released Friday afternoon.

The investigation stemmed from a claim last month by the Citizens for Fairborn’s Future. It alleged that Chess, owner of Xtra Pro-Dev 101 Centre, LLC, received $10,000 in ARPA funding for a small business grant for which the company was not qualified.

Chess said she “knew all along that there was no fraud. It’s just that I had to wait until the investigation was over. But it did, in fact, hurt my campaign because I didn’t want to make a lot of noise until they finished the investigation.”

McNamee’s opinion said the Fairborn group claimed the business did not qualify because Chess “was not operating out of a commercial location” as of Jan. 1, 2020, as required by the city.

The filing date of articles of organization for Xtra Pro-Dev 101 Centre, LLC, listing Chess as the agent, was July 1, 2020, Ohio Secretary of State documents show.

“Ms. Chess had previously operated her business in Texas before relocating” to Fairborn, McNamee’s report states. “Ms. Chess sought to continue operating the business.

“The operational requirement of Jan. 1, 2020, is explicitly devoid of a location requirement, thus Texas would suffice,” according to the report.

Chess started “her due diligence” for a Fairborn site in December 2019, as shown in a letter from her realtor, McNamee wrote.

“A storefront or brick and mortar operation is not required for a business to be operating, nor does a business filing need to be submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State,” according to the opinion. “Thus, the allegation that Ms. Chess failure to register her business until July of 2020 is without merit.”

Chess is one of five candidates running for Fairborn City Council this fall, with three seats open. The other candidates are incumbents Clint Allen and Tana Stanton, plus challengers James Baker and Katy Carlton.

Chess said “voters deserve to know the truth about anybody – no matter who they are.”

People need to “make sure that whatever you do, it’s the truth and you know that it’s the truth. And if it’s not … it should not be published,” she said

“I’m hoping that I win this election,” Chess added. “If not, I’m going to continue to serve the city … I ‘m going to continue to work hard for our small businesses in Fairborn. I’m going to continue to do everything I was doing even before I thought about running for election.

“I’m not mad at anybody. I’m not upset,” she said. “I think people need to be careful what type of information they feed to the public, especially when it comes down to a grassroots election, a local election like this … This is an important election. We do need people in office that are adamant about working as a team of professionals in order to move our town forward.”

The city revealed Oct. 20 it had an “ongoing investigation” following questions by this news organization. The questions were raised after it obtained Fairborn ARPA funding documents through a public records request.

The documents involved ARPA funds given to a business operated by Chess.

The city, like some others, is using federal money to help Fairborn small businesses recover from the pandemic. The city received about $6.8 million in ARPA money, $250,000 of which was designated for small business grants, Fairborn records show.

Fairborn last year awarded $10,000 each — the maximum amount — to six small businesses, Dayton Daily News records show.

The city told Chess on Feb. 7, 2023 her company at 440 W. Main St. would be receiving a $10,000 small business grant during the second round of awards, Fairborn emails show.

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