10 News Investigators: Feds investigate Tampa Housing Authority

12:52 AM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- More heat is being put on the Tampa Housing Authority. Federal investigators are in Tampa this week looking into how the authority spends its money.

It all the result of several stories by the 10 News Investigators.

The allegations are that Tampa Housing Authority is spending money making the staff and board members comfortable and happy at the expense of the people they are supposed to serve.

Our investigations came to the attention of Housing and Urban  Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who says his first concern is the residents, some who are living in conditions most people would not tolerate.

The agency has plush new headquarters. The CEO is making a salary more then $60,000 above the maximum allowed by Congress, and hundreds of thousands are being spent on on travel and training.

When we asked Housing Authority CFO Leroy Moore about the spending, he told us, "You're an embarrassment to the journalists."

We told him if that was his opinion, that was fine, but asked if the taxpayers have a right to know about the money spent traveling? Moore never answered.

However, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, who saw our stories and has written to HUD Secretary Donovan asking questions, told us, "They're trying to discourage you because they can't stand the test of investigation."

While we have been trying to get answers, so has Grassley. He wants to know why the THA is spending so much money. And our 10 News investigations have led to federal investigators coming to town this week to determine how the agency spends its money.

Grassley says, "I always tell them when we start investigating, if you don't give us the information we want or you try to cover it up, the truth will come out. It is going to hurt you more than if you told the truth in the first place."

And critics of the housing authority are concerned that money spent on staff and board members should be used to help improve living conditions instead.

Reva Iman, who lives in Robles Park Apartments, showed us her home saying, "This is it my living area."

She showed us the area that she says "is supposed to be the kitchen, but the kitchen is so small I didn't put a table, but this is it."

The Robles complex is a Tampa Housing Authority project, which is a rundown place with boarded up apartments and no money for any amenities.

There is no air conditioning and no screens, so the windows can't be kept open.

We asked Iman, "What's it like in the summer?"

She told us, "Hot! Very hot, very hot."

But with the recent cold spell, Iman learned how to get cool air in her apartment -- she turned on the heater.

Iman told us, "It blows cold air, not heat."

That is exactly why the Tampa Housing Authority is taking heat this week as HUD inspectors are going over the agency's financials.

Chief Financial Officer Leroy Moore discounted our investigation, saying, "We welcome credible organizations to come in and look at our records, because you're not credible."

Moore doesn't think our reports are credible, but HUD clearly does.

An internal THA email 10 News obtained shows that even employees of the agency are upset. It says, "The executives upstairs, they're all on these fancy trips with new iPhones and iPads and we can't even get a damn raise."

But it's those in public housing who are suffering the most.

Iman asks, "Why take this money and do other things when you know that these places need to be fixed up?"

But even after our questions, the Tampa Housing Authority continues what some call frivolous spending, including one party just last month, an event even employees are concerned about.

This internal email we obtained says, "Really? with all the crap Deeson is putting us through, now they are having a party? ... Oh boy let him get a hold of this one see where it will go [sic]."

Some say this is another indication THA cares more about their perks than the residents the agency is supposed to be helping.

Iman showed us a plastic bowl she keeps in her refrigerator filled with water and told us, "The maintenance man told me to keep a bowl or something to catch the water that drips down out of the refrigerator."

Now Reva Inman is pouring the water down the drain to keep her refrigerator from breaking down for a third time, the same way some say THA continues pouring money down the drain.

Iman says, "This has to stop. This has to stop."

 

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