After the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General released an explosive 70-page audit report on Mobile’s Housing Board, executive director Dwayne Vaughn is setting the record straight.
Vaughn said there were several claims in the report that are misleading.
“I wouldn’t call it a witch hunt. I would call it a difference in how we should go about in public housing. We believe about half of it [ the developments] should come down and new housing in its place. It seems the OIG has taken a different view,” Vaughn said.
The report points out more than 1,000 units are vacant despite the board receiving millions of dollars to restore them. Vaughn said 80% of those units are empty on purpose because they fall in developments the board wants to demolish and rebuild.
“One of the things they criticized us for was having vacant units. Most of those vacant units are in properties that we want to tear down. They’re WWII housing. They’re civil rights era housing. We feel their useful life is over,” Vaughn said about the houses in Thomas James Place, Roger Williams, and Josephine.
“We don’t think we should be spending valuable taxpayer money on properties that need to come down. We are still spending money on repairs for people actually living in the properties,” Vaughn said.”There’s just not enough money to do all the things we need to do, so we made a strategic decision not to make a lot of units and properties we want to tear down, ready . Now when we look back, the OIG has a different opinion of how we should have gone about that.”
The report also says the board failed to disclose a conflict of interest and withheld important documents, but Vaughn found that claim surprising.
“We gave literally hundreds of pages of documents to the OIG and we had not been informed that there was anything else that they needed that we hadn’t provided, so I was surprised,” Vaughn said.
As for the conflict of interest claim, Adeline Clark, the senior vice president of the board’s affiliate, Mobile Development Enterprises, is related to a contractor, but Vaughn says that relationship didn’t play any role.
” We have disputed that. We don’t believe there is any conflict of interest. That individual did not participate in the solicitation in any way and does not benefit. We don’t believe there’s any conflict but the OIG has felt very different about that and we’ll be working with our field office to work through those concerns,” Vaughn said.
He said his next step is to work with the OIG field office as well as Mayor Stimpson’s administration to get everyone on the same page.
” We are going to work cooperatively with the mayor. We believe in the mayor’s One Mobile vision, and we think we’re doing out part to make One Mobile,” Vaughn said.