LUMBERTON — The board for the Lumberton Housing Authority on Monday approved a number of resolutions aimed at correcting deficiencies in fiscal management, according to Kimberly Jones, the authority’s attorney. The deficiencies were listed in a 32-page management review conducted last year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We’re moving ahead to take corrective action,” Jones said this morning.
The federal review brought to light a number of deficiencies, including a finding that the authority entered into contracts that violated conflict-of-interest regulations that could force the return of almost $300,000 in federal money. The bulk of HUD’s findings relate to the authority’s failure to keep policies current — such as those for travel and personnel — as well as the lack of internal controls and “checks-and-balances” for different aspects of financial management and record-keeping.
As a result of the review, HUD has ordered the local authority not to spend or obligate any federal money without first getting HUD approval. The HUD Office of Inspector General has initiated an audit of the Lumberton authority’s operations that is expected to last about eight weeks.
Last week, the Lumberton board entered into a contract with Pembroke Housing Authority for that agency to provide emergency management services to the Lumberton Housing Authority. Lemark Harris, the executive director of the Pembroke Housing Authority since July 1993, will serve as Lumberton ’s interim executive director.
“Mr. Lemark is working very diligently to move forward with corrective actions to HUD’s concerns,” Jones said. “That’s what the resolutions are about that were approved Monday.”
Jones said that board members on Monday decided to begin meeting twice a month instead of just once.
“The board will be meeting at least twice a month so that it is available to take the corrective action that makes it possible for Mr. Lemark to get his job done,” Jones said.
HUD’s review looked at how the authority is governed, its organization and staff, financial management, management operations, facilities management and capital funds. According to a Jan. 23 letter from Michael Williams, director of HUD’s Greensboro office, to Meacher, the review found 13 serious programmatic findings and 15 observations related to potential non-compliance. Meacher retired about two weeks after receiving the letter.
“The results of the report are discouraging and indicate that there are systematic programmatic shortcomings within the administration of the Housing Authority of the city of Lumberton,” Williams said. “Each of the findings, observations, and recommendations should be carefully reviewed by the authority and all corrective actions should be implemented immediately.”
James Meacher retired Feb. 25 after serving as Lumberton Housing Authority’s executive director for 33 years. His retirement came about two weeks after he received Williams’ letter.