Sen. Brown and Sen. Grassley Leading Federal Inquiry of CHA

Senator Scott Brown

The long reach of disgraced Chelsea Housing Authority executive director Mike McLaughlin’s perfidy has led to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and our Senator Scott Brown demanding full explanations about policies at the CHA.

“Senator Grassley is dealing with HUD,” Jill Gerber, an aid in his Washington office told the Chelsea Record Wednesday morning. John Donnelly, an aid in Brown’s office, said the same thing about Senator Brown.

“Grassley is focused in exploring problems with housing authorities in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Harris County, Texas and of course, Chelsea,” Gerber added.

Wednesday afternoon, Grassley and

Senator Charles Grassley

Brown sent another letter to HUD with more follow-up questions about the CHA. They told HUD that something is not right with HUD’s overview.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development said that they are committed to taking action, and yet the financial statements released in December 2010 ranked Chelsea as a ‘High Performer’ for ten years straight based on HUD’s annual comprehensive review. If HUD has been ranking the Chelsea Housing Authority in the 90th percentile for the past ten years, after reviewing their financial and management operations, then something is clearly wrong with HUD’s oversight policy.  I am deeply disturbed and will continue to hold bad actors in the system accountable,” Brown told the Chelsea Record.

In their co-signed letter to HUD, he and Grassley want to know why the CHA permits three managers to live in public housing projects almost rent-free when there are not enough subsidized apartments for the city’s low income residents.

The Grassley-Brown communications were sent to David Montoya, Inspector General of the United States.

Three CHA employees are allegedly living in public housing here for $25.00 a month rent.

Grassley was especially concerned about housing officials providing housing for those employees and said exactly that in a letter he wrote recently to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Grassley has launched an investigation into McLaughlin’s $360,000 a year salary paid to him by the CHA as well.

City manager Jay Ash said he agreed with Senator Grassley. Ash again expressed wonder and dismay about how abuse at the CHA could have gone on as long as it did without raising any red flags.

“I hope the various investigations will get us there and ensure that any and all abuses at the CHA have been rooted out.  I concur with Sen. Grassley that a lack of oversight has gotten us to this point, so it is incumbent on those officials who oversee housing authorities to adopt the necessary reforms to make sure that our housing authorities operate with the highest of efficiency and transparency,” said Ash.

The revelation almost three months ago that McLaughlin had managed to cook the books at the CHA in order for him to receive an astounding salary of $360,000 a year led to McLaughlin’s resignation and the CHA being thrown into receivership by Governor Deval Patrick.

In addition, the five member CHA board of directors resigned as ordered by the governor.

CHA receiver Judith Weber, appointed to oversee the CHA during the investigatory period by the Supreme Judicial Court, has been searching the agency’s records, its financials and its general protocol for all things related to its mission and will be reporting back to the SJC about her findings.

To date, Ms. Weber has delivered at least two 30 day reports to the SJC which listed no improprieties found or money missing.

At this time, McLaughlin’s pension, his sick time and vacation day reimbursements are under surgical style scrutiny by state and federal housing authorities.

McLaughlin, in the meantime, has filed for retirement but not before cashing an $80,000 check written to him by the CHA treasurer the day he left.

The state put stop orders on an additional $120,000 of checks he was carrying on his last  day at the CHA.

In related news at the agency City Manager Ash has apparently interviewed several candidates for appointment to CHA board of director positions which are scheduled to be filled in the near future.

“ I’m confident that the CHA is moving in the right direction now, and pleased with the work of the Receiver to date to establish systems and reorient funding to best serve CHA residents and our community at large,”said Ash.

However, Senators Brown and Grassley are adament.

They want to know about executive compensation and if a review of  compensation reporting is being conducted by HUD in order to ensure that housing authorities provide accurate information.

And they also wanted to know if authorities are limiting federal funds from being used to pay housing authority employee salaries that exceed specific limits?

“How is HUD enforcing this new provision of the law? How will HUD ensure that additional compensation is not provided under a different label,” the senators asked in a letter sent to HUD Wednesday afternoon, a copy of which was sent to the Chelsea Record.

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