AHA Falsified Applications to HUD
By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (December 03, 2007)
(APN) ATLANTA – The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) sent in five demolition applications to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) containing falsified documents, Atlanta Progressive News has learned. APN notified the City Council of Atlanta of this troubling revelation during the public comment period of the December 03, 2007, full Council meeting.
APN obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act from HUD, after both AHA and HUD’s press offices refused to disclose the documents voluntarily. HUD’s Donna White said the documents would have to come through AHA or public records since they were produced by AHA, but did not explain why. AHA’s Barney Simms had Rick White from the Alisias PR firm return a phonecall from APN. White said he would be happy to provide the documents, only hours later saying they would instead have to come through public records, meaning it would cost around $300, contain several redactions, and take several weeks.
APN received expedited processing from HUD. HUD granted expedited processing because APN was able to show that not having the documents could lead to the loss of safety of others, particularly since the public has not seen the relocation plans for residents being evicted. In all, it took about six weeks to get the documents. The applications were for the Jonesboro North, Jonesboro South, Inglewood Manor, U-Rescue Villa, and Leila Valley communities. Donna White from HUD told APN they were approved in June 2007.
In addition to obtaining forged documents, the applications also raise other serious issues. Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin has been sending letters to HUD expressing the approval of the “City of Atlanta” of the demolitions. However, this has been done without the consent of the City Council.
Also, the applications state that no written comments from the public were received on the applications. However, AHA never held public hearings on the applications, Diane Wright, President of the Resident Advisory Board, told APN. Also, if the applications were not made public, being that they could only be obtained through public records requests for a fee, it’s not clear how the public would have been able to comment on them.
FORGED DOCUMENTS REGARDING RESIDENT CONSULTATION
One of the most important requirements of the application process to HUD for each demolition/disposition application is to demonstrate how the residents were consulted with, particularly the RAB Board.
As Atlanta Progressive News has reported for some time, AHA did not consult with the RAB Board. Indeed, a copy of the February 14, 2007 RAB Board Meeting minutes, prepared by Louis Amey, Secretary, obtained several months ago by APN, state Barney Simms and Anthony Bostic of AHA made a presentation regarding the demolitions to the RAB Board. Incidentally, Bostic is now an AHA whistleblower who has shared with APN other instances of AHA wrongdoing, as APN has already reported.
After this presentation, the floor was opened to questions. “Some of the questions or concerns were: Doesn’t AHA need approval from JWC [Jurisdiction-Wide Council also known as the RAB Board] to move forward? (Answer:) AHA doesn’t need approval from JWC and they only need approval from HUD. They are just letting us know what the plan is so we can tell our Residents what to expect.”
However, the demolition applications contain a different version of the minutes from the same meeting, apparently composed by AHA. These minutes are only one page, instead of two pages, and they contain completely different descriptions of what went on that day. They do not include AHA’s assertion of only needing to tell residents their plans but not consult with them.
The demolition applications also contain typed-up sign in sheets, which Wright says are not the RAB Board’s actual sign-in sheets. The sign-in sheets sent to HUD were typed, whereas the AHA sign-in sheets contain handwritten names.
The demolition applications also contain copies of the agenda from that meeting, although Wright says it is not the actual agenda. APN has actual RAB Board agendas from other months and they are not in the same format nor font, nor on the same letterhead, as the agenda AHA sent in to HUD.
LETTER FROM MAYOR FRANKLIN
Mayor Franklin wrote five letters to HUD supporting each of the applications on January 29, 2007.
“The City of Atlanta supports The Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta’s (AHA) plan to submit a demolition application to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development relating to the Englewood Manor [or respective] community,” Franklin wrote.
Franklin insisted the City was a partner in the demolitions.
“As a partner, The City of Atlanta is committed to working with AHA to promote more effective and efficient operation of low-income housing, to better serve the needs of these residents, and to reduce the concentration of poverty in Atlanta neighborhoods,” Franklin wrote.
However, one Member of City Council told Atlanta Progressive News that the Council has not voted to approve the demolitions.
Some Members of Council, particularly Ivory Lee Young, have stated that the Council has no jurisdiction over the AHA in regards to these demolitions. However, the City Council does have a say as relevant local government officials through the demolition application process.
HUD’s Donna White told APN that traditionally, HUD prefers for the letter to come from the Mayor or County Chair, where applicable.
Yet, that does not mean the letter should be written by the Mayor on behalf of the City without consultation with the legislative body whose role it is to set policy and represent citizens.
Atlanta Progressive News will inform top HUD officials of the issues, including the apparent fraudulent documents, related to this application. Residents and advocates have already made a civil rights complaint to HUD, which HUD is investigating, stating they were not consulted as well.
At this point, residents and advocates are interested in pursuing a legal injunction preventing AHA from relocating residents and demolishing the properties.