Former Wareham Housing Authority chastised for mismanagement

Oct 12, 2016

A state audit released on Wednesday provided a harsh critique of fiscal and administrative mismanagement by the Wareham Housing Authority’s previous executive director and former Board of Directors.

The more serious concerns raised included a failure to: document hours the former executive director worked over a three-year period, calculate proper rent payments, administer payment of $23,000 in expenses and keep track of $12,000 of credit card purchases.

Wareham Housing Authority members and Chair Bob Powilatis requested the state’s help in April 2013 after former Executive Director Pam Sequeira abruptly retired. According to Powilatis, several issues raised red flags for him, including a massive backlog of rent applications, the fact that units hadn’t been inspected for safety since 2007 and shoddy accounting.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump lauded board members for taking action.

"I commend the board of commissioners of the Wareham Housing Authority for seeking the independent assessment provided by my office to identify problems they suspected existed,” said Bump. “We found systemic problems, particularly in the areas of financial and records management. I’m pleased the board has begun to address the problems we identified”

In the audit, Bump provides recommendations for addressing the problems. Recommendations include strengthening oversight of expenditures, particularly in the realm of compensation and time and attendance records, bolstering policies and procedures for maintenance of proper documentation and reviewing tenant accounts if appropriate. The Authority’s board indicated they are taking steps to implement the recommendations and address the identified problems.

The Wareham Housing Authority manages and oversees 104 state-subsidized housing units for elderly tenants. It also manages 50 Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program units. It previously managed 20 federally subsidized units. It is governed by a five-member board of commissioners, four of which are elected by the citizens of Wareham, and the fifth is a state appointee.

Read the complete audit by clicking on the link below.

Comments (12)
Posted by: totellthetruth | Oct 12, 2016 18:38

Good for you Bob! Keep up the good fight!



Posted by: barnstorm | Oct 13, 2016 06:49

Kudos Bob, for looking after the WHA and all those missteps of past administration.



Posted by: bob | Oct 13, 2016 08:56

Great job Bob,but why isn't the A.G.Office,filing charges against the former Executive Directer to get this money she spent on and cant be account for....



Posted by: brazz | Oct 13, 2016 09:48

Here are the main takeaways that i got from the audit report.

  • Why was an "executive director" paid hourly? Has this been changed?
  • Why are state/town employees allowed to accrue 17 weeks of vacation? "This indicates, based on her payment at the time, that the $15,590 she received, was for 17 weeks of unused vacation time"
  • Is there nothing in the contract the allows the town to get money back from her? These contracts seems to never have a teeth."she was required to, but did not comply with the terms of her contract by maintaining appropriate time and attendance records to justify her pay and the then Board failed to enforce and ensure contract compliance"
  • Time for a new accountant? Maybe require the accountant to report any potential issues to the board? The Fee Accountant’s contract was in place and is not necessarily what we would have negotiated.
  • Board missed 20% of meetings. No show, No pay. Replace them if they cant show up to work. The Authority’s board of commissioners did not meet for 7 of the 35 meetings scheduled during our audit period. This included 4 consecutive meetings from December 2012 through March 2013. Overall, this means that the board missed 20% of its meetings during the audit period. Missed meetings and lack of full attendance hinder the board’s ability to adequately govern the Authority’s financial and physical operations.
  • We could not determine the exact reasons for canceled meetings. Current Authority management was not in place during the period of our review and could not provide a reason for board absences or canceled meetings.



Posted by: totellthetruth | Oct 13, 2016 11:14

Answer to your questions Brazz:   LACK OF OVERSIGHT.



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Oct 13, 2016 23:35

"Is there nothing in the contract the allows the town to get money back from her?"

 

FYI, The Wareham Housing Authority is an entirely separate governmental entity that the Town does not control.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Oct 14, 2016 09:52

Selectmen Teitelbaum - If the town paid Sequeira money, does the town have access to the contract which required the town to pay Sequeira money?

 

Also, Brazz seems to have inferred that Housing Authority Board members appointed and elected are paid for their services. Are they paid for their services?



Posted by: felinesmom | Oct 14, 2016 10:28

I hope that the members of the previous HA board have not migrated over to other town boards.  The dereliction of their fiduciary duty as this report illustrates is astounding.



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Oct 15, 2016 09:50

Andrea, the Town does not pay Housing Authority employees.  Each week the Selectmen receive two payroll warrants that have to be signed by a majority of us to release paychecks to Town employees.  One is from the School Department, and the other consists of the remaining Town departments, i.e. EMS, Police, Municipal Maintenance, etc. (as a side note, we also receive and execute vendor warrants authorizing payment for the purchase of goods and services on behalf of the Town).

 

The Housing Authority employees do not appear on these warrants.  While I have never seen a Housing Authority payroll document, I would imagine that the Housing Authority itself pays their employees directly, with payroll authorizations being made by the Housing Authority board members in a similar fashion to Selectmen executing Town payroll warrants - hence the State Auditor's report directly criticizing the Housing Authority for failing to exercise proper oversight over the former director's compensation.

 

Regarding compensation, I do not believe that Housing Authority board members receive any pay for serving.  The five member board is made up of four elected members and one appointed by the Governor.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Oct 15, 2016 10:10

Selectman Teitelbaum - thanks for the clarification. I misunderstood the question you posted above:

 

"Is there nothing in the contract the allows the town to get money back from her?"

 

I thought it was asking if the town, as in town government, could get money back that had been paid to Sequeria. 

 

 



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Oct 15, 2016 10:29

Ah, now I see where the confusion was - I had copied and pasted that question, originally posted Brazz, so that I could respond to it.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Oct 15, 2016 16:58

Selectman Teitelbaum - Thanks again for a clarification.



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