Up to $1 million in expenses questioned

Last updated: July 25. 2014 8:33AM - 1864 Views
By - bshiles@civitasmedia.com

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LUMBERTON — Operations will continue as usual at the Robeson County Housing Authority while the agency’s executive director is suspended and the county prepares its response to concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to Jason King, assistant county manger.

“We’re open and everything is as usual. Bills are being paid and residents are continuing to be served,” King said Thursday. “We have seen no hiccups in the system and we don’t expect to see any hiccups.”

King was named Monday as the authority’s interim director by the Robeson County Housing Authority board, which is made up of county commissioners. The board on Monday also suspended the authority’s executive director, Ron Oxendine, with pay while allegations, including that he used federal money to pay for work at his home, are investigated.

Oxendine, whom King said was on vacation from July 7 until Monday, has served as the Housing Authority’s executive director since September 2009. He earns a salary of just under $77,000 a year.

King said that the county has started working on its response to concerns over the authority’s procurement policies and procedures that HUD presented to the county in a recent letter. The letter, dated June 30, was addressed to Noah Woods, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, and gives the housing authority 30 days to respond to HUD’s findings.

In the letter, HUD has said that about $1 million in questioned expenses must be paid back if the authority can’t provide documentation that it followed federal procurement policies.

“There is no missing money, but we could be required to repay HUD all, or part of that amount, if we can’t provide the proper documentation,” King said.

In the letter, signed by Michael A. Williams, director of HUD’s Office of Public Housing in Greensboro, it states that the Robeson County Housing Authority must now get approval from HUD before spending some money.

“Robeson County Housing Authority is required to receive prior approval from the HUD field Office for all expenditures, entering into any contracts, hiring and firing with the exception of paying utilities and payrol l…,” Williams said.

According to the letter, a procurement assessment was conducted in response to the Office of the Inspector General and forwarded to HUD’s Greensboro Field Office. Three following threee allegations were made against Oxendine.

— Oxendine used housing money to pay for work at his home.

— Two contractors, Marshal Oxendine and Oral Dial, worked on Oxendine’s personal home while at the same time receiving housing authority contracts without competition.

— Oxendine attempted to get free services at his personal home from Dorsey Landscape while the company was working for the housing authority. When the contractor declined to provide the services, the contract with the housing authority was terminated.

According to the letter, during HUD’s on site review last month. Oxendine addressed the allegations. At that time he said that Dial had consulted on the construction of his home in 2009 for free, with no physical work being conducted; Marshal Oxendine, while under contract to the Robeson County Housing Authority, worked on his home but was paid from his personal funds; and Dorsey Landscape had done work at his home and there was a dispute over part of the payment. At the same time, the housing authority had conducted a cost analysis of landscaping services and as a result Dorsey’s contract was terminated.

HUD pointed out in its letter that “at the very least, this gives the appearance of impropriety and violation of conflict of interest prohibitions prescribed in the annual contributions contract” since Dorsey Landscape had been doing services for the authority since April 2010, its contract was reduced in July 2011, and finally terminated in April 2012.

“Our records indicate that (housing authority) management had attended procurement training in 2010 given by the HUD field office staff, contributing to our concern about these allegations,” the letter said.

In its letter, HUD identifies three findings that the local housing authority must address.

In the first finding, HUD contends the housing authority could not provide the sufficient history to validate a number of contracts it had with Dial and Marshal Oxendine. HUD has ordered more than $1 million in questionable expenses be paid back if documentation can’t be provided showing proper procurement policies were followed.

The second finding is that the housing authority violated its own procurement policy by not having sufficient contracts, purchase orders, documentation and modifications in place for several of the services provided by Dial and Marshal Oxendine.

HUD’s third finding was that the housing authority must receive independent cost estimates before it goes out and solicits bids and proposals for projects. HUD contends that in its review of procurement procedures, it could find no independent cost estimates, according to the letter.

King said Thursday he county’s response will be sent to HUD within the 30-day deadline imposed by the federal agency.

The Robeson County Housing Authority is responsible for maintaining 290 units across Robeson County. This includes 110 units at Morgan Britt Park in Lumberton; 40 units at Benton Court in Rowland; 40 units at McColl Page Plaza in St. Pauls; and 100 units at Westgate Terrace in Red Springs.

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