According to the Hoboken Reporter story dated Sunday, February 22, 2004, Acting Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) Executive Director Robert DiVincent found "financial" and "waiting list" problems in the City's federally funded housing program.
DiVincent disclosed that HHA internal 2003 fiscal year audit documents showed millions of yet unaccounted over-expenditures along with a $1.3 million deficit. One can only hope that the fiscal irregularities thus far uncovered are not just the tip of the iceberg.
DiVincent also found problems with the two "waiting lists" used to select potential residents for federally subsidized housing. The first list, used to get a unit in the federal housing program, had a majority of Jersey City residents while the second list, the Section 8 voucher list, had at least 200 names on it.
Interestingly enough, DiVincent states that there are no Hoboken residents on the Section 8 voucher list.
Let us not forget that while it is convenient to place all of the blame on former HHA director Troy Washington, the fact remains that the HHA has a seven-member volunteer board. One commissioner seat is filled by NJ Governor McGreevey who designated Perry Belfiore. The remaining six commissioners, HHA Chairman Angel Alicea, Vice-chair Jean Rodriguez, Arlette Braxton, Lynda Walker, Ruben Ramos Jr. (Hoboken City Council President), and Jessica Andreula were designated by the Hoboken Mayor and City Council.
Did any of the Commissioners take the initiative to: Review the HHA internal 2003 fiscal year audit? Review the Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) that measures the performance of the HHA "choice voucher" program? Review the "waiting" lists to determine the applicant's residency?
This situation is unconscionable in a City where unbridled development and regional unemployment continues to displace countless residents. And, most importantly, don't forget that the HHA manages three "senior" citizen buildings.
How many of our friends and neighbors, Hoboken's lifelong seniors, missed the opportunity to continue living here in an affordable federally subsidized Hoboken apartment?
While it may be premature to point the finger of blame, I believe that the time has come for those who accept political appointments to serve on volunteer boards understand their legal responsibilities. The appointees are there to protect the public interest and should expect to be held accountable for their actions/inactions.
If I were one of the appointing authorities of the HHA Board of Commissioners, rest assured each respective Commissioner would be called in on the carpet to explain how the problem developed and what corrective actions were taken to resolve the problem.
It would also be wise for the Governor, Hoboken Mayor and City Council to "officially" notify HUD of DiVincent's findings and request a federal investigation into the matter. HHA "public" documents will be available for public review.