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Monday, July 7, 2014

HUD intervention on HHA problems means little in probe





MSV Analysis on the State of the State of the Hoboken Housing Authority

In the video above, courtesy of our colleagues at The Hudson County View, a clash of procedure meets the immovable force in Chairwoman Dana Wefer and the verbally ample ED who is always ready with an excuse or an explanation in HHA ED Carmelo Garcia.

Wefer who refuses to yield during a roll call vote as HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia acting in his role as board secretary opts to ignore that responsibility and make a speech, causing a conflict illustrating perfectly the problems in the agency.

Garcia who in his infamous Wire incident (see above right) spelled out his Hudson County vision of a contractor's role in a Housing Authority, unbridled power with a rubber stamp board is coming up against the irresistible Reform force in a HA chair who takes their 21st century fiduciary responsibility seriously and that of the seven member Board.

The clash however wasn't inevitable and started out innocent enough. Wefer had questioned aspects of policy and requested a handful of contracts for review early on after appointment in January. The questions on initial contracts led to similar in succeeding ones and from this scratch , oozing pus began overflowing out of the Hoboken Housing Authority.

The pus as it were became the size of an out of control river as procurement contracts in the millions of dollars, all lacking approvals within standardized HUD guidelines emerged. Seeing the larger problems compounding, Wefer first expressed surprise, then shock and was confounded each requested contract turned out not to have met any minimal bar of board approval or minimal HUD procurement standards.

Thus the call for a special counsel review, twice affirmed by the HHA Board and unhappily met by Garcia with his usual backbiting complaints to HUD who he has more than once informed others - on audiotape mind you - that he is "revered" by the federal agency.

What more can one conclude after HUD Director Sonia Burgos stepped in to intervene with a less than laugh out loud legal analysis informing the HHA the door to corruption oversight is not open from the agency office in Newark. (How close is that to the US Attorney's Office?)

The HUD letter stopped an investigation where more than three million - $3,500,000 in your federal tax dollars were doled out indiscriminately and at the behest of one Carmelo Garcia without a single HUD required procurement standard met. Oh and some of those HHA vendors splashed thousands of dollars around into Garcia's political committee bank account.

Is the HUD office in Newark also lacking in that information?

Burgos for all intents and purposes is saying it's all hunky-dory.  In the letter, HUD claims it has insufficient information but Wefer has stated publicly much of that information had been provided to them earlier. It doesn't sound like there's been phone calls from Newark inquiring let alone asking for more information on what's been going on in the HHA either.

Where one whiff of corruption rises on so easy a scratch-n-sniff test, another must follow. While HUD may find bureaucratic avenues to clearly create an impasse on this front, it certainly isn't in position to do similar on every other.

In the end, the contracted position of ED serves at the pleasure of the HHA's Board of Commissioners. It's not a federal employee position, it's simply a contractor. As the varied acts of insubordination pile up, there's more than a little rotten wafting out of Denmark Garcia's Housing Authority. The smell isn't going to merely drift away. It's going to fester larger until it infects all of the Mile Square.

Our global cooling summer is about to heat up. With it, more fire on the Hoboken Housing Authority. You smell that smell?