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Action Plan Outlined for Scrutinized Medford Housing Authority

Executive Director Robert Covelle outlined a 21-point action plan Wednesday.

Three consultants and a new on-staff procurement officer are a few of the ways the Medford Housing Authority plans to address mismanagement of millions in federal funds .

Medford Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Covelle outlined a 21-point action plan in response to a during the housing authority's board of commissioners meeting Wednesday. Despite issues raised in the audit, Covelle said the authority was in good shape financially -- including a $6 million surplus -- and the issues would not impact residents.

"We’re a high performer," Covelle said. "Our properties look great, and our vacancies are minimal."

The authority and Covelle have been under scrutiny since the audit performed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that in 2010 and 2011 the authority handed out some construction projects without putting them out to bid, and didn't properly review rent prices to ensure it was paying competitive rates to landlords, among other findings.

The audit report called for the authority to review $1.3 million in procurement projects along with $7.8 million in expenditures of federal funds for assisted rent and a voucher program.

It also calls for the authority to pay back over $36,000 in rent the authority overpaid to landlords using federal money.

The authority is expected provide an action plan by April 30 that will address issues raised in the audit.

Covelle's plan includes requiring staff to take training and classes, implementing new policy, hiring a procurement officer, bringing in a consultant for section 8 housing policy, another for rent reasonableness, and a third to perform cost estimates on procurement projects cited in the audit.

"The MHA is complying with the HUD request to develop a comprehensive action plan," Covelle said.

, and . But the authority's section 8 director Sam Pirri said Wednesday that the problems found in the audit pre-dated Covelle's hiring.

"Unfortunately, Bob's taking the bad rap for things that have been done here for the last umpteen years," he said.

Several residents who turned out for the commission meeting spoke in support of Covelle, pointing to high scores on federal inspection report cards and improved quality of life since he took over the job.

An accounting counsultant hired by the authority hired by the authority downplayed the findings of the audit. The audit was not unusual to other audits he's seen, Richard Fenton said.

"I’m really here to say this is not so unusual," he said.

Still, the audit's findings have brought an unwanted kind of attention to the Housing authority's commissioners, who said Wednesday they were unaware of the issues raised in the audit because they were related to day-to-day activity.

"It's totally humiliating and embarrasing to everyone in this room," said commissioner Sylviajean Baumeister.

Commissioner Michael Luongo expressed frustration over having not discussed the audit during earlier commission meetings. He said he had previously wanted to bring it up, but Covelle put it off.

"I’ve been wanting to discuss this audit for weeks," Luongo said, "and there’s always been obstacles…We just want answers."

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Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misidentified housing authority section 8 supervisor Sam Pirri as Sam Kerry.

Joe Viglione April 19, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Jarret, do you mean Sam Pirri in Paragraph 10? I don't think there's a Sam Kerry there. If it's Sam Pirri, is he the Malden resident who is a defendant in a lawsuit over an allegedly stolen data base? Free Library link below? Is he in charge of Section 8? If so, please change the spelling, thank you. Mortgage firm sues seven ex-N.H. employees. GMAC filed the suit last month in U.S. District Court in Concord. It names Schaefer Mortgage, Sam Pirri of Malden, Mass., etc http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Mortgage+firm+sues+seven+ex-N.H.+employees.-a0189871108
Jarret Bencks (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 09:20 PM
The article has been corrected. I do not know whether that is the same Sam Pirri, but I can make clear a few things about that case: It was filed in 2008, not last week. The Sam Pirri who was a defendant in that case, along with four other defendants in the matter, were dismissed from the suit in December 2008. A judgment was entered against the remaining two defendants to return property to GMAC and delete any files obtained from their databases.
Joe Viglione April 19, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Thanks, Jarret. I received a call back from the law firm handling the case but the person who spoke with me did not have the info you provided. Thank you.
Joe Viglione April 20, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Jarret, I just heard back from the plaintiff's attorney: "Returning a telephone message ...regarding GMAC (against) Schaefer Mortgage I can report that that case was resolved by Agreement of the parties without any Admission of wrongdoing. Beyond that I cannot comment due to a confidentiality provision in the settlement agreement. Thank you very much." http://informationcentralmedford.blogspot.com broke the story
Rick Catino April 25, 2012 at 02:18 PM
So let me better understand the problem and the solution..... The MHA choose not to follow already established policy.... so ..... the cost of three consultants and a procurement officer needs to be added. As a consultant myself, the typical scenario is to begin the consulting engagement by reviewing the processes, make changes where appropriate, implement changes, train employees on processes, install a check and balance review process to ensure processes are effective and being followed.... then end the engagement. I don't know that $1M improperly spent warrants the addition of four permanent headcount.
June Cleaver May 02, 2012 at 05:16 PM
No landlords want to deal with MHA's inspection agents for section 8 apartments. I work for an apartment rental company and every landlord I have spoken to in Medford is upset about the woman who inspects the potential Section 8 apartment, Deborah Giuliano. It makes it very difficult for customers who come out of the MHA section 8 program. This is not the case with surrounding communities. Is the mayor going to do anything about this?
Medford Landlord July 27, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Thank you June Cleaver !!

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