Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Maricopa County board revises Housing Authority's ethics code

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors revised its Housing Authority's ethics code and will require adherence to the new code by any housing project seeking federal funding through the county program.

The intent is to bring the program in line with federal standards and avoid repeating problems found by a critical audit two years ago.

The code revision, approved last week, is part of an ongoing effort to clean up the county housing agency, which two years ago came under scrutiny after a federal audit found evidence of financial and operational mismanagement. The authority helps provide affordable housing to low-income county residents by issuing housing vouchers and subsidizing public-housing units.

Supervisors in December 2010 took closer control of the Housing Authority amid the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's findings of mismanagement. They appointed a veteran housing administrator, Gloria Muñoz, to direct the organization after having for years handed day-to-day control to handpicked commissioners.

The authority's ethics code now includes a section that spells out standards it must meet as a part of its HUD contract. The authority operates primarily on HUD funds. Its most recent budget was $15 million.

Among the new ethics provisions are guidelines on how to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest with contractors or with members of the organization's governing board. The code now prohibits certain hiring practices that may indicate favoritism or nepotism.

Muñoz said adding HUD contract provisions to the Authority's ethics code was one of the main changes she has sought since taking office, because it is a HUD requirement.

"It's something ... that we needed to take care of since I started, just to make sure that we're in compliance with every requirement that we say we're going to be in compliance with with HUD," Muñoz said. "Anytime you have it in policy, it's much better."

The annual HUD contract outlines operations and management requirements that must be met to receive HUD funding.

The housing agency's former executive director, Doug Lingner, resigned two years ago amid an investigation stemming from allegations of nepotism and mismanagement.

Then, the 2010 HUD audit found "a history of unsatisfactory performance in financial, procurement, governance and personnel areas," including Lingner's violation of procurement regulations by awarding a contract to his brother -- a violation of county and federal contracting requirements.

by Michelle Ye Hee Lee - Apr. 3, 2012 10:01 PM The Republic |

Maricopa County board revises Housing Authority's ethics code

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