The director of the Robeson County Housing Authority has been found guilty of nothing, and there should be a presumption of innocence until the facts no longer allow for such benevolence.
But the allegations against Ronald Oxendine, who is now suspended with pay from that job, are disturbing. Unfortunately these types of allegations are increasingly routine, not only in Robeson County, but everywhere — betraying an incredible lack of oversight when it comes to taxpayer dollars, which are especially vulnerable to pilfering because of the belief that there’s plenty more where they came from so the money will not be missed.
A local investigation of the Robeson County Housing Authority is underway that is expected to be completed soon and whose findings will be turned over to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides funding for public housing.
An anonymous complaint sparked the investigation into allegations that Oxendine has used public money to pay for work at his home; that contracts were rewarded without the proper bidding process; and that a landscaper’s services were terminated because the company refused to do work at Oxendine’s home.
In fewer words, Oxendine is accused of using his position at the director of the county Housing Authority for his own benefit. Allegations are that as much as $1 million has been improperly allocated.
The investigation follows a similar and ongoing probe into the Lumberton Housing Authority, whose director resigned, and also aligns with the resignation of the head of Public Safety in Fairmont amid allegations that he misspent money while he was the chief of the South Robeson Rescue Squad.
The Robeson and Lumberton housing authorities do important work, providing shelter for people who otherwise might be dumped into the streets. So it’s important that public money designated for that purpose is not redirected for private use, and that a proper bidding process is followed so that dollars are stretched as far as they can go.
Recent events at both authorities have undermined the public’s confidence in those institutions — confidence that can only be reclaimed following determined investigations that conclude with full public disclosure and harsh penalties if it is determined that laws have been broken.
In this county, it seems that investigations are plenty but proper punishments are rare. Perhaps that at least partially explains why it’s not rare that headlines blare about public officials pilfering the treasury.