LUMBERTON — As part of a contract with the Pembroke Housing Authority to provide emergency management services to the Lumberton Housing Authority, the authority’s board has named Lemark Harris as Lumberton’s interim executive director. Harris, the executive director of the Pembroke Housing Authority, will temporarily oversee the management of both authorities.
The Lumberton Housing Authority has been without an executive director since Feb. 25, when James Meacher, who served as the authority’s director for 33 years, retired. Meacher left about two weeks after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told the local agency not to spend or obligate any federal money without first getting HUD approval because of a concern “about the possible improper expenditure of funds.” The authority is now working with the federal agency to address its concerns.
The authority board has also been restructured. Robert Delane Shaw, the board’s chairman the past four years, has been replaced as chairman by Commissioner Eric Chavis, the board’s former vice chairman. Shaw will continue to serve as a board member.
At a board meeting earlier this week, Kimberly Jones, the lawyer for the Lumberton Housing Authority, was appointed by the board to serve as an authority spokesman.
According to a statement from Chavis issued on behalf of the board, efforts are now under way to address federal concerns listed in a 32-page report outlining the results of a 2012 HUD review of the authority’s management and financial practices. The review was conducted in response to allegations of conflict-of-interest requirements.
“One of the most serious corrective actions that must be addressed is the repayment of $299,775 to certain Asset Management Projects,” according to Chavis’ statement. “As a result of the report, the HUD Office of Inspector General has initiated an … audit of the authority’s operations to determine whether it is operating its public housing program in accordance with HUD and other requirements. The Inspector General audit is expected to last for eight weeks.”
With 731 units of low-income public housing and 596 units of Section 8 housing, the Lumberton authority sought emergency management assistance from Michael Williams, director of the Office of Public Housing for the Greensboro HUD field office. The authority needed emergency management services to “ensure the continued operation of the property and to maintain the health, safety and welfare of the residents and the management of its housing voucher program,” Chavis said in the statement
According to Chavis, HUD “strongly recommended” that the Lumberton authority contact the Pembroke authority and request help. Pembroke’s proposal to provide emergency management services was agreed to in a resolution adopted by the Lumberton authority’s board on Tuesday.