The Commerce City Council voted to approve the Commerce Housing Authority's 'Recovery Agreement Action Plan' approved by the CHA Board directly before the council met, and also approved the City and CHA's 'Recovery Agreement.'
The 'Recovery Agreement' is essentially a contract drafted with language that allows HUD to enforce actions of sanctions if they become necessary on the responsible organizations.
“If this process does not move forward as we intend then this agreement allows us to move forward with sanctions,” Greg Jungman HUD's Oklahoma Program Center Coordinator, told the council.
According to Jungman, sanctions could include taking the 34 units of housing and giving individuals vouchers to find housing on their own, placing the operation with a private contractor, or under the purview of a neighboring housing authority.
Jungman said that sanctions were unlikely due to the concerted efforts of the City of Commerce and the newly appointed CHA Board and Executive Director Dale O'Neal to correct the issues identified.
“We're very optimistic. Ever since we first contacted them, the Mayor called me very quickly and we've talked ever since. Complying with the plan should get them a standard score and then following through on the second plan which is for sustainability, they should be in good shape overall,”Jungman said.
He added, “If the timelines in the action plan are met there won't be any sanctions. The tenants are absolutely safe, no matter what. The sanctions are never with respect to tenants, the sanctions are always in respect to the organizations. The tenants are well taken care of in any scenario.”
The special meeting began with Councilwoman Lena Enochs objecting. “I'm still troubled by this and I've talked to the Mayor about it.When you talk about a person and money...”
She was interrupted by Mayor Michael Hart, who said,“Lena, we're not going to talk about a person tonight we're strictly talking about this plan right here. I did talk to you on the phone, but if it's a matter of going on the record, please continue.”
“Okay, when you're talking about money and a man, which the man is named in this, I think it ought to be in executive session. And I so move to make that motion, that it go to the executive session,” Enochs said.
Mayor Hart said that it was not listed on the agenda and could not be discussed. Councilman Jim Long, who also now sits on the new CHA Board, then asked Enochs if her request complied with the strict state laws on what could go to executive session. Mayor Hart then took charge and began the meeting following the agenda.
Jungman said the City of Commerce does not operate the housing authority but does have fiduciary responsibility to appoint board members and, “to oversee at an arm length distance the governance of the housing authority and ensure that things are run properly from that perspective.”
“We have come along way at the housing authority, in fact some of the recovery items on the plan have ben accomplished or are well underway, but we do have lots to do and this plan takes us not to complete compliance with HUD requirements, but to a place where we believe the housing authority can score standard. Right now the housing authority is substandard, because the housing authority does not have a sufficient financial position to warrant anything better than a substandard designation.”
Jungman then answered the council members questions. Long had concerns about accounts receivable.
“Approximately $18,000 is carried as a balance in the 'account's receivable tenant',” he said. Jungman said in theory it's simply the amount of money owed to the authority but not collected. He said that housing authorities this size cannot have over $1,000 here.
Jungman clarified that this is not a typical account held by a housing authority and was accessed by the executive director. Jungman also said that the purchases of $11,783.27 made at Walmart on the housing authority's debit card that have no receipts for expenditure are being reviewed.
Long said an auditor is on board now, but no anticipated completion date of a review is known.
The City's attorney Erik Johnson went over the appropriateness of the discussion on the 'Recovery Plan' in open session and the City's duties and responsibilities to the CHA.
Councilwoman Katy Tompkins asked when the issues with the CHA were brought to the City Council and Jungman said a letter was sent on October of 2011.
“I would add that ,appointed by a former mayor, we had someone sitting on the council right now, Lena, who had oversight of that housing authority and told us nothing, and at least part of the blame lays with us through one who had oversight of the housing authority.We didn't learn about it on either front,” Long said.
“When I was appointed was in 2006, and they were having problems then with one person writing checks and we changed that to two peoples signatures on the checks when I went down there. I went to every meeting. It was an open meeting anybody could have went,” Enochs replied.
“Yeah, but you were appointed by Johnny Crawford and it was an epic fail on your part to make us aware that there were problems at the Commerce Housing Authority.”said Long, who added that he could not attend meetings because she was there and both were on the council.
“We depended on you to make us aware of any problems that were happening and you didn't. It's as simple as that,” Long said.
Johnson then directed a question to Jungman asking if all the steps were taken in the plan would it correct the CHA's problems.
“Yes you should get back to a passing score,” Jungman said and then explained the importance a proposed CHA sustainability plan.
The council then voted to approve the CHA's 'Recovery Agreement Plan' plan and City's 'Recovery Agreement' with all voting yes with the exception of Councilwoman Enochs.