Under its former executive director, the Sanford Housing Authority failed to perform adequate inspections at dozens of privately owned homes for which landlords received Section 8 housing vouchers, leading to multiple deficiencies in housing conditions, including some described as potentially “life-threatening.”
That is one of the key findings in an audit report released Sept. 13 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General. The report recommends that “appropriate administrative action” be taken against former SHA Executive Director Ken Armstrong.
The September report follows audit findings released in July which claimed Armstrong improperly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (subscription required) and recommended the agency make appropriate reimbursements to the federal government. Armstrong, who left his post in 2014 for a similar job in Florida, pushed back against that report (subscription required), telling The Sanford Herald in July that he was working to locate documentation that would justify the expenses.
The new report makes clear, though, that systemic problems under Armstrong’s administration were more than just financial.
“For the 62 program units inspected, 56 (90 percent) failed to meet minimum acceptability requirements for housing quality standards. Additionally, 37 (66 percent) of the 56 failed units were in material noncompliance with HUD standards. For the 56 units that failed inspection, the Authority’s inspectors failed to observe or report 541 violations that existed when they conducted their latest inspections,” the report reads. “The excessive violations occurred because the previous executive director’s administration did not follow its administrative plan and did not have quality control inspection procedures to ensure that its inspectors performed complete and accurate inspections.”
Violations included inadequate security measures on unit windows and doors, exposure to live electrical components, sagging counter tops, and damaged walls allowing insect and weather infiltration.
Following Armstrong’s departure, some members of the Authority’s Board of Commissioners wanted to hire a convicted felon as his replacement before a the majority selected Shannon McLean for the job. Not long after, the Sanford City Council replaced nearly the entire Board of Commissioners (although the SHA is entirely federally-funded, the city appoints members to its governing body) due to “turmoil” (subscription required) on the old board.
Both the September audit report and the one from July indicate that many of the issues were initially identified by McLean as she transitioned into her role as SHA’s executive director, leading to the investigations.
While this report is terrible, at least the SHA didn’t hire that convicted felon to replace Armstrong! If Shannon McLean is helping to shine a light on these deficiencies, then my hopes are high that she is every bit equal to the faith placed in her by the current SHA.