Thursday, August 10, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
During her annual report presented at a Legal, License and Committee Meeting held on Aug. 9, Tiffany Robinson, the executive director of the Maywood Housing Authority, announced that the federally funded authority is in serious financial trouble related to incidents of theft and misconduct that happened over a decade ago.
Robinson said that, due to the theft that happened in the agency, the government expected MHA to pay “over $1 million back to them.” She said that MHA filed an insurance claim but was denied. Currently, Robinson said, the authority owes an outstanding balance of $813,967.
Robinson said that she’s talked to officials in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Chicago office, asking them to forgive the balance because the theft and misconduct happened under different board members and staff.
During her presentation, Robinson didn’t flesh out the incident of theft she was referencing or how much was stolen; however, MHA’s past problems have been well documented.
In 2013, the agency’s former executive director, Gwendolyn Robinson, pleaded guilty to theft and official misconduct for stealing more than $400,000 from the authority during her tenure that lasted between May 2006 and November 2009. She was indicted in 2011 and eventually sentenced to six years in prison, according to the Chicago Tribune.
And an investigation by the Better Government Bureau in 2011 revealed even deeper problems with the authority, including alleged conflicts of interest between MHA board members and companies contracted to do business with the authority, and “questionable” credit card usage by MHA board members and staff.
Former MHA executive director, Gwendolyn Robinson, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing $400,000 from the authority between 2006 and 2009.
The current executive director was hired in 2011, when the authority was months away from potentially closing down. During her presentation on Aug. 9, Robinson (no relation to Gwendolyn), touted the authority’s achievement of “high-performing” status each year since 2013.
Robinson added that the authority is current on its financial audits and has endured strenuous financial scrutiny from three different outside auditors.
In May, the MHA opened its waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly Section 8) for the first time in several years. The authority, she said, received around 43,000 applications. Of those, only 2,000 were held, she said.
“We want to clear this debt and move forward,” Robinson said, adding that the government hasn’t been automatically sending the money the authority needs to function. Instead, she said, the funds have come in haltingly, in fits and starts, with MHA officials often having to ask the federal government for funds on a month-to-month basis.
“We’ve had to go to HUD to ask them to give us funding to pay our landlords,” Robinson said. “In February 2016, we asked the government to fund us $323,000. Another time in June 2016 — when the housing authority did not have funding — we asked the government for $325,000 … In November of 2016, we asked HUD for another $302,700. This is almost $1 million in one year.”
Robinson added that in April 2017, she went to the government again to express her displeasure that MHA wasn’t getting funds that it was “due to receive.”
“Many times, we’ll get a report that we’re going to receive funds and, next thing you know, two or three days before the end of the month, we’ll receive another letter saying we won’t [receive the funds],” Robinson said. “So, we then have to send in a request to ask for funds and send in all the necessary information.”
After requests for more funding in July and August of this year, Robinson said, the government gave the agency $250,000 and around $326,000, respectively.
Robinson said that she’s been asking the Chicago HUD to clear the debt since 2013 so that the authority can automatically receive the funding it needs to operate, but hasn’t gotten the desired response. She said that MHA only has one month of reserves left.
Currently, she said, the Chicago HUD office doesn’t have a permanent director. The current acting director comes from Detroit’s HUD office.
“I’m not a person to give up,” Robinson said. “I’m a fighter. I’ve been in this business for 25 years and this is the worst that I’ve seen any agency be treated. In my time of being in the housing authority, I’ve only been a change agent. I’ve been cleaning up agencies. Maywood is clean, but we need this debt that was not created by the current staff and board cleared up.”
Robinson also criticized some current MHA board members who she said are “not committed to what we’re doing.” While she didn’t name anyone specifically, she said that the board members who had accompanied her to the Aug. 9 meeting — Dianne Williams and Barbara Bailey — were among those who are supportive of her efforts.
“We need people who are proven and committed; not just interested in a title,” Robinson said. “If you’re not committed to the community … we don’t want you on our board.”
After Robinson’s presentation, the village board directed staff to draw up a letter of support to be sent to the Chicago HUD office.
Based on President Donald Trump’s DY 2018 budget, MHA’s current woes aren’t all that may prompt some authority officials and voucher recipients to worry.
According to an analysis by affordable housing expert David Layfield’s Affordable Housing Online, Illinois could lose more than $226 million in general HUD funding and more than $52 million in funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program, specifically, if Trump’s budget is approved. VFP