Housing agency board chief calls for federal review of applications

The chairman of the board of directors of the Little Rock public housing authority called for a federal investigation Monday, a week after the board was charged with “serious misconduct.”

The letter from the Chairman of the Council of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance, Kenyon Lowe, to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development was a response to the 161-page memo from the Alliance’s Executive Director, Nadine Jarmon, to the Federal agency and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., Wednesday.

Jarmon called for the entire board to be removed from office and alleged a wide range of misconduct, including financial mismanagement and undue involvement in the day-to-day operations of the agency.

Lowe asked to join the area’s housing and urban development officials in a “request for an OIG investigation,” referring to the federal ministry’s office of the inspector general.

He said last week that Jarmon’s allegations against him and the board were “noise” and “guesswork,” but he said in an interview on Monday that the board would welcome a “fair investigation.” to set the record straight “.

“Right now you only have charges, and anyone can charge anyone with anything,” Lowe said.

The allegations include unnecessary spending, bypassing necessary federal approvals and conflicts of interest for commissioners and parties involved in transactions with the housing authority. Jarmon submitted a collection of emails, bank statements, board minutes, board resolutions and other documents as evidence.

The five-member board of directors appoints itself, subject to the approval of the board of trustees and the mayor of Little Rock, but the government authority over the housing agency is the federal department, not the city, Scott said last week.

A regional spokesperson said last week that the ministry was reviewing Jarmon’s complaint and supporting documents. The agency will attempt to justify the allegations before opening an investigation, which could include the inspector general’s office, the spokesperson said.

This rendered Lowe’s request moot, Jarmon said on Monday. She called it a possible “diversionary tactic”.

“I don’t understand what his request is, because [I] has filed a complaint before, so now it looks like it’s an afterthought, ”Jarmon said. “I don’t understand what he’s trying to accomplish.

Jarmon said Lowe had contacted several of her staff since she filed her complaint, but they had not responded because “it is not in accordance with protocol.” Lowe did not contact her directly, she said.

Jarmon’s letter last week marked the latest episode of conflict between the CEO of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance and its board of directors. The agency has seen four directors in the past three years. Anthony Snell, the executive director before Jarmon, stepped down in July, writing in his resignation letter that the board had harmed and micromanaged the agency.

Lowe said in his Monday email to the regional housing and urban development office that the council tried to request an investigation from an inspector general earlier, but struggled to contact the right people because of the change. location of the regional headquarters after the Federal Ministry changed its regional boundaries.

He told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the board called for an investigation into “certain operational things” before Jarmon filed his complaint. He declined to elaborate, saying these issues would be part of the investigation.

“In light of the article in the Arkansas Democratic Journal of June 25, 2021, regarding the charge of misconduct and mismanagement by the current Council of Commissioners, on behalf of the Council of Commissioners, I ask join a request for an investigation from the BIG, “Lowe wrote Monday.

The timing of a potential investigation would depend on both the case and its complexity, said Chuck Jones, senior advisor for operations and external affairs in the Federal Ministry’s Office of the Inspector General. If any findings resulted in a trial, US lawyers would be prosecutors.

If the Inspector General’s office looks at the Metropolitan Housing Alliance, it will be the second time in less than three years. An April 2019 audit found that the housing authority had failed to follow the rules in its efforts to convert nine social housing units into a voucher program.

A group of anonymous Metropolitan Housing Alliance employees sent a letter to the Mayor’s office in June 2020 with the same request to remove the Council of Commissioners.

That letter was not sent to federal housing authorities, and Scott said last week it was lacking supporting documentation, making it difficult to investigate.

After receiving the letter last year, Scott announced that he would propose to dissolve the Council of Commissioners, but it remains in place.

Scott’s office did not respond to questions on Monday.

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