Problems Persist at Mexico Housing Authority

5 years 5 months 1 week ago Thursday, December 13 2012 Dec 13, 2012 Thursday, December 13, 2012 2:53:00 PM CST December 13, 2012 in News
By: Mary McGuire

MEXICO- When controversial executive director John Afoun left his position in 2010, it seemed a fresh start was possible for the Mexico Housing Authority.

But a Target 8 Investigation reveals that things at the Housing Authority are still far from problem-free, riddled with substandard ratings, financial irregularities and yet another executive director with a questionable past.

Mismanagement in Mexico

In 2010, a KOMU-8 News Investigation raised questions about John Afoun, the former executive director at the Mexico Housing Authority. KOMU-8 uncovered Afoun misused a cell phone issued by the city of Mexico, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars. 

During his time in Mexico, Afoun purchased a plot of land without the proper authorization.

According to the Housing Authority's 2011 audit, the parcel of land Afoun purchased is valued at $86,776.09. The land is currently for sale.

Afoun left his position in Mexico in October 2010 to take a similar spot in Moline, Ill.

After Afoun's departure, Edmund Carrera took the spot of executive director.

New Executive Director Hired

According to  Homestead Housing Authority Office Coordinator Brandy Ramirez, Carrera served as the executive director of Homestead Housing Authority in Homestead, Fla from 1996-2010. 

KOMU-8 obtained a copy of an investigation by the USDA that found beginning in 2007, tenants were overcharged $58,000 in utilities. 

In addition, the investigation revealed the Homestead Housing Authority deferred maintenance, allowed illegal aliens to reside in their properties, and consistently assigned rental assistance incorrectly and did not consider the most "overburdened" tenants.

The investigation also found Homestead's administrative expenses to be unreasonable; "contributing 13% to all employees 401K accounts, employee annual bonuses up to 25% of annual salary, paying 100% of health benefits for some employees, providing personal loans to employees from operating account."

The report also classified some Homestead residences "filthy" and "dirty". 

When KOMU-8 attempted to review Carrera's personnel files from his time in Florida, the Homestead Housing Authority said the files were stolen by a former employee and were currently in the hands of the Miami-Dade Police Department. KOMU-8 obtained a copy of that police report regarding the stolen files.

Carrera refused KOMU-8's request for an interview.

Financial Missteps

KOMU-8 obtained a record of a June 18, 2012 visit to the Housing Authority by a financial analyst from HUD's St. Louis field office.

Notes from the visit reveal that the Mexico Housing Authority transferred $26,659 from the HCV (Housing Choice Vouchers) program to the Mexico Housing Development Corporation, a non-government entity.

Notes from the visit also reveal there was a great deal of confusion regarding who transferred this money and exactly how the funds were used.

In response to the inquiry, finance clerk for the Mexico Housing Authority Lorette Smith told the HUD representative the funds were used to pay for Afoun's salary, a dinner for the development corporation, and possibly a public announcement about the development corporation.

"Lorette added that she is not 100% sure if that is how the funds were used and suggested that I talk to Rita Jackson (Board Chairperson for the Mexico Housing Authority)," the notes read.

Jackson told the HUD official she believed a portion of the funds were used for Afoun's salary and to pay closing costs to purchase the land Mr. Afoun bought.

"Ms. Jackson attempted to locate some documentation providing a breakdown of the expenses paid with the funds, but I have not yet received the document(s)," notes from the visit read. Jackson refused KOMU-8's request for an interview.

HUD then asked Section 8 Director Colette Cooper how the funds were used.

She stated that a portion may have been used to pay Mr. Afoun's salary and to add "Mexico Housing Development Corporation" to the signage affixed to the Mexico Housing Authority.

In light of the confusion, the Housing Authority was not authorized to transfer that amount of money in the first place.

"The Housing Authority's year-end settlement for the 2003 fiscal year indicated that it had $16,380 in reserves in its earned administrative fee account...this was the maximum amount that could be used to pay Mr. Afoun's salary for the Mexico Housing Development Corporation. We (HUD) would like to determine how the Housing Authority plans to handle the $26,659 receivable and how long the receivable will be carried on its financial statements," notes from the visit reveal.

When questioned about the funds, HUD officials said there are still questions to be answered.

"We are still trying to get that figured out with the Housing Authority, exactly how those funds were dispersed and allocated. That's why we made a note of it and we are still waiting on some clarification," said Field Office Director James Heard.

The financial irregularities don't stop there.

The Housing Authority's 2012 operating budget lists Carrera's salary at $68,900. But his salary is listed at $75,000 on a list of the Mexico Housing Authority's employee's total 2012 compensation.

The Mexico Housing Authority's 2011 audit also revealed a significant deficiency in the Housing Authority's financial reporting.

The audit reads:

"We believe the Authority did not have controls over the preparation of the financial statements...to prevent or detect a misstatement in the financial statements. As a result, potential misstatements in the financial statements may go unnoticed."

Substandard Performance

In a letter from HUD's St. Louis field office addressed to Carrera, the Mexico Housing Authority was rated as a "MASS (Management Assessment Subsystem) Substandard Performer" in February 2012.

The reason for the low rating?

"The Housing Authority became substandard because it failed to maintain an acceptable occupancy level in its developments, as well as the Housing Authority had a high level of tenants accounts receivables," the letter reads.

Almost 360 defects were found in Mexico Housing Authority dwellings.

The most prevalent defects were rust/corrosion on hot water heaters (69), damaged hardware and locks (34), and damaged door surfaces (17).

9 defects relating to mold/mildew were also observed, as well as 9 insect infestations.

According to its phone directory, Afoun is still employed with the Moline Housing Authority.

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - Iowa, Florida, Michigan and Virginia are just a few of the home states visitors traveled from for the... More >>
49 minutes ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 3:56:00 PM CDT May 27, 2018 in News
OSAGE BEACH - A car drove through a clothing store at a popular shopping outlet on Sunday. 88-year-old Freida... More >>
3 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 1:18:00 PM CDT May 27, 2018 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - The Salute to Service air show at Columbia Regional Airport today started off with some trouble. A... More >>
4 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 12:16:00 PM CDT May 27, 2018 in Top Stories
BRUNSWICK - Some might think small towns around mid-Missouri are fading away, but Brunswick is very much the opposite, thanks... More >>
5 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 11:15:00 AM CDT May 27, 2018 in News
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - Alec J Potthoff, a 20-year old Iowa native was seriously injured after two boats collided... More >>
6 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 10:27:00 AM CDT May 27, 2018 in Top Stories
(AP) — Joshua Holt, a Utah man who traveled to Venezuela in 2016 to marry a woman he met... More >>
6 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 10:02:00 AM CDT May 27, 2018 in News
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - In the midst of high gas prices on Memorial Day weekend some boaters have decided... More >>
15 hours ago Sunday, May 27 2018 May 27, 2018 Sunday, May 27, 2018 12:46:00 AM CDT May 27, 2018 in News
BUNCETON- A new fire station is now ready for action in Cooper County. On Saturday, people gathered to celebrate... More >>
19 hours ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 9:06:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in Top Stories
COLUMBIA - After a disappointing season capitalized by missing the postseason SEC Tournament it was hosting, Missouri softball will have... More >>
20 hours ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 8:03:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in Sports
COLUMBIA- The neighborhood of Ridgefield Road and Wood Hill Road are on high alert after a series of break in's... More >>
21 hours ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 7:18:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
BOONVILLE - Hundreds of cyclists were traveling from Columbia to Boonville for the 10th annual Pedaler's Jamboree. The event... More >>
23 hours ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 4:59:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - In August 2017, Michael Stephenson moved into his new town home at Aspen Heights for the new school... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 4:43:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Open pools means play time for many people in Columbia but Parks and Recreation is still hard at... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 4:42:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Seven people die every day due to house fires. The American Red Cross is teaming up with... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 4:30:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
INDEPENDENCE - The 87-year-old Independence man reported missing Friday has been reported safe. The Missouri State Highway Patrol cancelled... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 4:29:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Thousands of people withstood the heat Saturday to support the U.S. armed forces and honor veterans at the... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 3:02:00 PM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
LAKE OZARK - For those heading to the lake Memorial Day weekend, Saturday morning is the first day of a... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 9:00:00 AM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- The counting of votes was underway Saturday following Ireland's referendum to lift the... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, May 26 2018 May 26, 2018 Saturday, May 26, 2018 6:43:00 AM CDT May 26, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 93°
5pm 86°
6pm 87°
7pm 85°
8pm 85°