HUD criticizes Hoboken Housing Authority during initial review

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development blasts the Hoboken Housing Authority for several deficiencies during a limited review that could drop its status to “troubled” this fall.

Former Hoboken Housing Executive Director and NJ Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33)
Former Hoboken Housing Executive Director and NJ Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33)

by Sarah Introna/ Hudson County View

The report criticized the authority’s procurement process, lack of record keeping, and the spending of nearly $3 million in “unjustified non-competitive procurement” dropping it immediately to “zero dollar threshold” status.

This threshold is  given to low-income housing assistance programs and those accepting funding from programs like capital fund grants must get HUD approval before moving forward with any services or payments.

Conducted during the week of July 28th by HUD’s New Jersey public housing office, the report said HHA “lacks systematic and organized records keeping for all aspects of maintenance operation, including work orders, unit turnaround, preventative maintenance and annual inspection.”

Hoboken Housing Authority Chair Dana Wefer blames some of these oversights to a lack of funds. She adds these “problems are huge” – but fixable – although it won’t be overnight.

Among its findings, they discovered the authority continued to use the emergency service method of procurement left over from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Once the electricity was fixed and cleanup over, they did  not return to a bidding method but continued to use vendors like LandTek Group, Inc and Haddad Electric paying them more than $500,000 each exceeding the state’s bid threshold limit of $17,500.

“Even after 18 months later,” the review stated, “HHA have been using these same contractors on an as needed basis by way of purchase orders. It appears that by issuing these purchase orders, HHA has circumvented the bidding process.”

Wefer said in the statement, “It’s important to emphasize that these findings are just for the eight files HUD sampled.  Extrapolating this data to the whole of the HHA lays bare how dire the situation is.”

The report also mentions the urgency for the authority to hire a permanent executive director, a position which was previously held by NJ Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-33)  before the board of commissioners terminated his contract in a raucous special hearing in early August.

While Garcia could not immediately be reached by Hudson County View, he told the Hudson Reporter that record-keeping problems were, in part, the blame of the board and on one of his financial officers.

“What the Chairwoman fails to admit is that between the two devastating Natural Disasters & the board’s lack of support,” wrote Garcia in an email to the Hudson Reporter, “their obstructionism for the last two years created these situations.”

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