Jobs on the line following housing fiasco

Authority was ordered to pay back $600,000


July 25 at 10:35 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The audit also found that several Section 8 properties were unsafe. In all, inspections of 14 units found 13 did not meet HUD standards and had 191 health and safety violations combined.
The audit also found that several Section 8 properties were unsafe. In all, inspections of 14 units found 13 did not meet HUD standards and had 191 health and safety violations combined.
The chairwoman of the St. Charles Parish Housing Authority said that no one’s job is safe after an audit revealed that more than $600,000 in housing payments were processed without verifying the income of those receiving the money.

The audit reveals that through lapses in Housing Authority management,  $570,834 in housing payments were made that were not supported by proper documentation, including not verifying participants’ income to ensure they were eligible for the grants. The Housing Authority also paid $16,350 to people who should not have received the money and spent $18,391 on unsafe properties that did not meet Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards.

The audit also found that several Section 8 properties were unsafe. In all, inspections of 14 units found 13 did not meet HUD standards and had 191 health and safety violations combined.

Out of those violations, 185 had been identified in previous inspections but were never corrected.

Leala Jackson, who has been the director of the housing authority for the last 21 years, did not have access to or know how to use the voucher program system, which is used to manage tenants and finances. She also hasn’t attended quality standards training since 2007, according to the audit.

In response to questions about Jackson’s job security, Tyrell Cornwell, chairwoman of the housing authority, said that everything is up in the air right now.

“We found out we do have some gaps and Leala is over the employees,” Cornwell said. “We are working with HUD to see what we need to do to improve.”

However, Cornwell was careful to not place blame entirely on any housing authority staff member.

“There is really no one person we are going to say is truly responsible,” she said.  

St. Charles Parish residents took to Facebook to complain about the housing authority’s mismanagement.

“How are you in charge and don’t even know your agency’s programs or policies?” Shalonda Marie said. “Apparently none of the agency head people on the federal level were on top of anything for this to go on.”

Karen Wedge took issue with the fact that her tax money was misspent.

“This is so wrong on so many levels. Do not use my taxes. Fire (Jackson) and use her paycheck,” she said. “She didn’t do her job in years. There is no way anyone in a job this long should not be held responsible.”

Last year the St. Charles Parish Housing Authority was named a “problem housing authority” by HUD, which oversees grants provided to housing authorities nationwide. After earning the designation, the St. Charles Parish Housing Authority was placed under special supervision by HUD last year and a plan was also enacted by St. Charles Parish to provide upgrades to the parish’s 50-year-old housing projects.

However, neither plan covered Section 8 housing, which makes up the majority of the authority’s responsibilities.




View other articles written By Kyle Barnett

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