Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority has been absolved of any wrong doing in the recent investigation by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General relating to ARHA's administration of the local Section 8 Housing Program.
That was the announcement by ARHA Executive Director William Dearman at the authority's Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night. "Staff was recently notified by HUD's Inspector General Office that everything is in compliance with HUD regulations in our Section 8 Program," Dearman told the board at the commencement of his monthly report.
"We've have had 10 reviews by HUD in the last 18 months. We have had no major complaints. We have a very dedicated staff," he said.
"The investigation has been closed by HUD and the exit interviews have been concluded. Nothing was found to be wrong except for some mistakes made in computer entries," said ARHA Vice Chairman Carlyle C. Ring Jr.
"There was no fraud in the Section 8 Program. Numbers had been transposed in entering the data into the computers. But, when they (HUD-IG) checked the paperwork they found it to be in order. They told us to be more accurate when making entries," Ring said.
The HUD-IG investigation was initiated when Federal investigators from HUD's Baltimore office showed up unannounced in the early morning of July 19 at ARHA's housing office on Roth Street with subpoena's to seize 91 files pertaining to the Section 8 Program. This followed a five-month audit by HUD of ARHA overall accounts and programs.
Following Monday night's board meeting, Ring released a letter written by Dearman to Daniel Harding, HUD-IG special agent who headed the Section 8 investigation team, acknowledging the exit interview in which Harding allegedly told Dearman they found no criminal misconduct.
"We understand that you found our basic paper records generally complete and in good order but you had some comments concerning clerical, transposition and other errors in the data entry for our computer records. We discussed these concerns about ... record-keeping and have taken corrective steps to resolve them ... We understand that the investigation of this matter is now closed," Dearman stated in his Sept. 13 letter to Harding.
Harding was not able to be reached for comment to verify this conclusion. He is out of his office and unavailable until early October according to his voice mail message. However, he also reportedly told Dearman during the exit interview that the investigation of the Section 8 Program was only one element of an ongoing five-part investigation of ARHA Programs.
As noted in the July Gazette story concerning the initial investigation by HUD's Office of Inspector General, that office will not comment on any ongoing investigation. That includes its position to "neither confirm or deny" its existence.
In that same vein, it would not verify Dearman's statement, in his letter to Harding, that the investigation of this matter has been closed. The HUD office said only "We don't announce the end of any investigation."
One of the elements that supposedly sparked the Section 8 investigation was questions concerning certain individual social security numbers of those receiving housing vouchers. Section 8 vouchers are now issued to individuals and are portable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, many older vouchers are tied to specific units within ARHA's housing inventory.
It was the transposition of some social security numbers, when being put into the computer database, that caused concern among HUD auditors, according to Ring. "That has now been corrected," he said.
Ring also indicated Monday night that HUD has informed ARHA that they expect to release the findings of their audit within the next month. "We believe this will also bring us good news," he said.