The North Bergen Housing Authority settled a whistleblower lawsuit filed by two sisters who used to work at the agency for $150,000, sources told Hudson County View.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Mary and Angelina Vavosa were fired back in March 2014. Through the suit, filed back in March 2015, the ex-employees allege that they were fired for refusing to participate in the agencies corrupt practices.
The suit alleges that the NBHA’s policy is that citizens and registered voters were given preference over non-citizens and unregistered voters, routinely able to skip the line on the housing list.
Additionally, the suit claims that “on-call” positions, employees who lived in housing buildings for as little as $100 in a rent a month, were given to individuals who were considered to be effective at politicking for Mayor/state Senator (D-32) Nick Sacco and his administration.
Furthermore, the suit says that at least a handful of these employees did not actually live in their NBHA designated apartments.
According to court documents, the NBHA counters by claiming that Angelina Vavosa was fired for allegedly obtaining a three-bedroom apartment for her aunt, while Mary Vavosa was accused of knowingly allowing children to live in senior housing.
Both women denied these allegations during their depositions, while housing officials denied the accusations of misconduct at the core of the lawsuit.
Also during depositions, NBHA Assistant Director Carleen Earl admitted that the agency had violated federal guidelines by charging legal fees and other costs to tenants that were being evicted.
“Are you aware that HUD doesn’t allow the charging of legal fees for eviction
actions?,” the Vavosas attorney, Mario Blanch, a longtime antagonist of the Sacco administration asked.
“I recently found that out, yes,” Earl says, according to the deposition transcription.
“Okay and you are also aware that for a long time tenants were being charged legal
fees for eviction actions, correct?,” Blanch continued.
“Yes,” she said, later admitting that those tenants weren’t refunded.
The $150,000 settlement was agreed to during an open court session on February 8th, multiple sources confirmed with Hudson County View.
Lawsuit settlements almost always come with a provision that states that neither party admits to any wrongdoing and that the full details of the agreement cannot be disclosed.
NBHA officials and Blanch all declined to comment on the matter.