HUD officials visit Morgan City Housing Authority
MORGAN CITY, La. — An unannounced visit was made to the Morgan City Housing Authority by two officials from the regional offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week, according to Victory Ho, chairman of the authority’s board of commissioners.
Ho stated he has called for a federal investigation of the housing authority.
Cheryl Williams and Sean LeBlanc came from the New Orleans regional office and spent time with Ho on May 31 to discuss a number of obstacles facing the housing authority, Ho said.
The visit was originally scheduled for June 6, Ho said.
Ho and federal housing officials decided to make the visit earlier than planned and without announcement to get an accurate picture of what are going on at the housing authority, according to Ho.
“HUD is heavily involved in assisting me in getting us going in the direction we need and in getting the right director,” Ho said this morning. “I am grateful they came down. They want to help out.”
On Tuesday, the housing authority’s executive director Charles Spann gave a resignation letter to Ho. Commissioners accepted the resignation Wednesday at a specially called board meeting. Spann had served as executive director since 2007.
Ho said he gave documents to a federal investigator out of Baton Rouge. Documents were also given to the regional HUD office in New Orleans and “they told me that their legal investigators are looking into it,” he said.
Stephen Ashford, a special agent from the Office of Inspector General, was given documents concerning the Legislative Auditors’ report for the 2012 fiscal year and other documents and contracts as well, Ho said.
The public affairs officer for the Office of Inspector General for the Housing and Urban Development would neither confirm nor deny that an investigation has begun.
Williams and LeBlanc took a tour of the housing developments with Ho and observed the number of units that are “offline” or uninhabited, Patricia A. Campbell, HUD regional public affairs officer, said.
Campbell cited the number of unoccupied units as a partial reason for the local housing authority scoring poorly on assessments. She also said that such low occupancy rates affect the amount of money the housing authority receives.
It is to the housing authority’s advantage to take down buildings that need to be demolished. “They benefit from having the highest occupancy rate possible,” Campbell said.
Ho said that he is committed to making sure any overpaid money gets returned to the housing authority.
Ho said it will take a thorough investigation to determine exactly how much money has been given out inappropriately.
“Once we know how much money is involved and from who, I will make sure that the director gets that money back,” Ho said.
The commission chairman indicated that by earlier next week he will have information on his recommendation for an interim director.