Orange housing schedules meeting amid controversy
Both residents and the executive director of the Orange Housing Authority (OHA) will air out gripes when the Board of Commissioners of with the quasi-governmental agency meets Friday, March 8.
OHA Executive Director Tanya Wilson has asked that an item be placed on the board’s agenda to discuss entering into a contract for the services she provides at the agency.
“Every other (housing authority) executive director has a contract,” Wilson told The Examiner. “I feel like I should have one.” Wilson has been the acting executive director of OHA for more than a year, appointed to the position after the OHA Board of Commissioners fired then-executive director Frank Anderson amid allegations of gross fiscal mismanagement and malfeasance.
Wilson voiced grievances with the OHA Board of Commissioners in a detailed February letter sent to the board members, HUD officials and the Orange City Council.
“The situation with the Board has become untenable,” the executive director stated in the February correspondence. “I have been wrongfully prevented from attending closed executive sessions. In addition, I have repeatedly been asked to sign documents that I believe violates HUD rules and regulations.
“I am deeply concerned with the direction the Orange City Housing Authority is currently heading. I believe the board should immediately employ a specialized audit firm to conduct a forensic audit and retain independent outside attorneys to advise the Agency on HUD policies and procedures. I believe there may have been improper spending on behalf of the Authority. I have voiced these concerns and reported them to HUD and OIG.
“These have been difficult times for the Authority. I am hopeful that by taking a proactive stance concerning these troubled issues, we can turn this Agency around and bring it into compliance with federal and state regulations.”
A response to Wilson’s allegations was penned by OHA board president Mary McKenna.
“I was personally dismayed to receive this letter, particularly since the Board charged you as executive director to ensure OHA’s compliance with not only managing its several properties, but also the rules and regulations of (HUD),” McKenna said. According to McKenna, it was Wilson who was to clean up the aftermath of Anderson’s years in the executive director’s seat.
“As OHA finds itself still in ‘troubled’ status under the guidance of HUD, 15 months after you were named as either acting or permanent executive director, your statements are very disturbing.”
McKenna then asks for Wilson to provide specifics to the claims of OHA board malfeasance, which were forwarded to the board president by Friday, Feb. 22. McKenna has yet to address the allegations, and the matter is not up for discussion according to the agency’s posted agenda.
Also absent from the OHA meeting agenda for March 8 is a request for OHA residents to speak out on the HUD-mandated halt to construction due to the board’s mismanagement of properly procuring contractors. In a letter from HUD Regional Director Dan Rodriguez, the official instructs OHA to “cease all further development activities until you have procured and executed a new (Memorandum Of Understanding) for the revised development activities.” Rodriguez further instructed OHA to re-advertise for the projects currently awaiting development.
The cease-work order has rubbed many residents the wrong way, and a petition has been signed and forwarded to the Secretary of State by more than 100 housing authority residents asking for the order to be lifted.
OHA Quality Control Coordinator Raymond Young forwarded the signatures to the state office, enclosing a letter of reference detailing the residents’ plight.
“You will discover that the (MOU that spurred development’s demise due to improper procurement) does not serve in the best interest of our agency, and more importantly, our residents,” Young wrote to HUD and state officials. “Our residents are very concerned about this matter. Their voices need to be heard.
“Our residents feel that gentrification is taking place in our city and many of our senior and disabled residents are worried. I hope it’s not being done at the expense of the citizens in our communities. They have rights too. We have all been given equal rights according to our Constitution. I feel that if these people are forced out of these neighborhoods, the very promise that America and the Civil Rights Act gave them would be violated.”
Young said many of OHA’s residents plan to speak at the board’s upcoming meeting, although no public comment is allowed, according to the board’s posted agenda.
Jennifer Johnson can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 231, or by e-mail at jennifer [at] theexaminer [dot] com.