Morgan City Housing Authority bonuses nearly matched salaries
MORGAN CITY, La. — Nearly $145,000 in bonuses were paid to four workers of the Morgan City Housing Authority in the 2012 fiscal year. The director was paid more than $22,350 in bonuses and three office staffers were overpaid a total of about $123,000.
The bonuses are reported in a recap of awards and recognition document obtained by The Morgan City Daily Review Wednesday morning through a public records request.
Victory Ho, chairman of the housing authority board of commissions, supplied the document after he verified it was a public record.
The document summarized payment information on two of the 10 findings revealed in a legislative auditor’s report given to the commissioners on Monday by Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company. The report had 10 findings pointing out deficiencies in accounting, record keeping and property maintenance.
Director Charles Spann confirmed the amount given to him as being “about right.” Three office workers were given reward and recognition payments or bonuses that nearly equaled their salary, substantially exceeding those allowed by the civil service.
Ho and Spann each said on separate occasions last week that bonuses for the director must be requested from the commission by the director. The document indicates Spann might have been allowed to request and receive $8,500. Spann acknowledged that he made no request of the current commission for a bonus.
“I didn’t follow protocol set by the housing authority in accepting those payments,” Spann said. “I made a mistake … I will pay (the bonus money) back.”
Spann has the sole discretion for awarding bonuses to the staff. Spann said when the workers’ names and bonuses were submitted to him, his name and bonus was on the list. He approved all of the payments.
Spann said he accepted an unnamed manager’s “misinterpretation” of a 2007 housing authority policy and civil service requirements.
Civil service requirements say rewards and recognition cannot exceed 10 percent of a civil servant’s salary. The Morgan City Housing Authority rewards and recognition policy states bonuses cannot exceed an employee’s annual salary then later states the payments are to be made in accord with civil service requirements. The policy was approved under a previous director and board of commissioners.
The director, who has led the housing authority since 2007, said that the three employees will have to repay the bonus overpayments and he will have to return his bonus.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials were scheduled to visit the housing authority on June 6. Patricia A. Campbell, HUD regional public affairs officer, said the issues will likely be discussed at that time.
Ho sent a formal request for the HUD investigation Tuesday afternoon, the chairman told The Daily Review. “I received email confirmation from the state civil service board that it is investigating civil service employees,” he said.
The document states workers, salaries, eligible bonuses, bonuses paid and amounts of over payment were as follows:
—Spann; salary $85,000; eligible $8,500 (if requested); paid $22,351; overpaid $22,351 (because it was not requested to the board, $13,851 was in excess of civil service requirements.)
—Tori Johnson; salary $37,881; eligible $3,788; paid $34,185; overpaid $30,397
—Diana Pace; salary $48,131; eligible $4,813; paid $46,913; overpaid $42,100
—Sandra Greene; salary $57,831; eligible $5,783; paid $56,377; overpaid $50,594
The audit indicates $93,733 of the inappropriate compensation was paid using federal housing dollars. It does not indicate how the remaining $50,000-plus was funded. The housing authority was given about $1.4 million from HUD in the 2012 fiscal year.
Spann’s future with the board may be discussed at the housing authority monthly meeting at 5 p.m. today at 336 Wren Street.
Two board commissioners have told him they have previous engagements and will be unable to attend the meeting, he said. If a third commissioner fails to attend, the board will not have a quorum to conduct business.
Spann indicated Wednesday morning that he is interested in staying on as director.
“There is still a lot of work to be done here,” said Spann. “The board may look at (the bonus issue) as a fatal error or look at the work I have done since I have been here.”
Units have been renovated and the housing authority has gone from 186 vacancies to fewer than 100, he said.
The housing authority oversees about 135 Section 8 vouchers of rental assistance through the private sector as well as four projects of public housing; Shannon Homes, Brownell Homes, Joe Ruffin Homes and Jacquet Homes.
There are 308 units of public housing; 24 have recently been demolished and the housing authority is asking HUD to authorize the demolition of 48 more units, including all 29 at Joe Ruffin Homes on Railroad Avenue. Jacquet Homes is the only project that does not have any units that need to be demolished, according to Spann.
Spann said the housing authority has been working with a developer in a partnership with private industry to build dozens of new projects in the next couple of years to help reduce the 100-family waiting list.