Housing agency recovering from audit scandal
Updated: July 31, 2012 2:19PM
WHEATON — The list is shrinking.
When the DuPage Housing Authority was called on the carpet by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year and its officers and administrators were pressured out, the new guard faced orders from the federal level to address a daunting array of issues. They’re making progress, Executive Director David Hoicka reported to the Board of Commissioners.
The litany of needed fixes followed a series of damning HUD audits spotlighting numerous instances of lax record keeping, improper reporting and inappropriate spending of more than $10 million in federal housing funds.
With an eye toward “building a great community organization,” Hoicka has been focused on forging new and healthy relationships with other local agencies.
“I think everybody is working here because we have a heart and a goal of helping people find good homes,” he said.
Some of the upgrades involve infrastructure, including replacement of computers, email systems and software, and new insulation at the DHA’s Roosevelt Road offices. Others are geared toward bolstering partnerships with related governmental entities and nonprofits, such as DuPage County’s Community Services Department; Trinity Services, which supports people with disabilities; and DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS).
Commissioners also took up a proposal for 20 housing authority employees to undergo training, at $8,300. Vice chairwoman Kathy McGowan of Naperville, filling in as acting chairman for this week’s monthly meeting, questioned whether long-time staff need to go back to square one.
HUD’s Office of the Inspector General “found so many errors, they said it was essential that our staff redo it,” Chief Financial Officer Scott Brady said.
The board sent the proposal on to its finance committee, headed by Naperville resident Mike Brosnahan. Commissioner John Berley, who also serves on that committee, said it makes sense to be sure all bases are covered.
“We thought it was important for the staff and the public to know those OIG recommendations are being addressed,” Berley said.
The list also targeted problems at five developments the DHA runs for seniors and people with disabilities. Three of them are in Naperville: Olympus Place, a supportive housing site operated by PADS, and two group homes operated by Trinity Services. Also among the agency’s Naperville properties is one of its larger residential sites, the 108-unit Ogden Manor complex at Ogden Avenue and Mill Street.
In addition, the board was directed earlier this year by County Board Chairman Dan Cronin to modify its ethics and personnel policies so they more closely align with those of the county. That objective, which stemmed from a $85,000 county assessment of two dozen appointed boards and commissions, is drawing nearer completion as well. Commissioners plan to adopt guidelines mirroring the countywide policies at an upcoming meeting.
Hoicka acknowledged that he and the staff still have a long road before them.
“We’re looking for a lot of different ways to reach out to the community ... and in my view, become one of the better housing authorities in the United States.”