JONESBORO The findings of an audit of the Jonesboro Housing Authority highlight the dangers of county officials casting stones in a glass house.
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners ordered the audit last fall while officials all but accused the city housing group of mismanagement and misuse of Community Development Block Grant funds. The audit was expected to cost $9,500 and was performed by PJC Group LLC, an Atlanta-based accounting firm.
Instead of finding abuses by Jonesboro Housing Authority, Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said the report actually pointed a finger of blame at a consulting firm working on the county’s behalf.
“The audit found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the Jonesboro Housing Authority or the county for that matter,” Turner said. “There were some issues with W. Frank Newton [Consulting Inc.], but other than that, nothing wrong was done.”
The results came as somewhat of a vindication for Jonesboro Housing Authority Executive Director Louise Kidd, who asserted last fall that her organization would be cleared of wrongdoing. Although the report was dated Nov. 29, Kidd received her copy this week.
Despite the negative perception created last fall by the county commission’s accusations, she does not harbor any grudges against the county.
“I’m not trying to hurt the county,” Kidd said. “I’m just trying to clear Jonesboro Housing Authority’s name.”
The audit report shows the housing authority’s procedures for handling grant funds “were in accordance with federal regulations” and the group did not break any agreements it had with the county on how the funds would be spent.
The Jonesboro Housing Authority was using the funds to renovate several housing units at an apartment complex located behind the Historic Clayton County Courthouse.
“Based on our review, expenditures were incurred for the design, renovation, lead-based paint testing and construction services as outlined in the subrecipient agreements,” the report states.
However, the audit paints an unflattering picture of W. Frank Newton Consulting, Inc. which was hired by the county to handle these types of agreements.
The firm reportedly issued subrecipient agreements that contained discrepancies.
“The county entered into several subrecipient agreements with JHA that had several discrepancies related to the number of units to be completed and the amount of funds allocated was insufficient to complete the project,” the report states.
A 2010 agreement shows the scope for the renovation project was to be two housing units, but rather than consistent in another agreement issued the next year for the same project, the number is different. The scope outlined in the 2011 agreement is six housing units while an activity description in the same agreement reverts back to the two housing units figure.
“WFN maintained regular contact with JHA throughout the process,” the report states. “Once the contracts for construction and related services were awarded by JHA, WFN did not ensure that the subrecipient agreements agreed to the actual contract amounts. However, there were indications that WFN knew that subrecipient agreements once issued, needed to be revised.”
Turner said W. Frank Newton Consulting’s contract with the county was terminated last year by the county commission. Turner and District 3 Commissioner Shana Rooks were not on the commission when the firm was fired or when the audit was ordered.
The auditors recommended the county create assessment procedures to make sure performance goals are met and in compliance with laws, regulations, contracts and grants agreements.
They also recommended the creation of a process to review agreements to make sure sufficient funds are distributed to complete projects.
Another subrecipient agreement, from 2008, states the Jonesboro Housing authority was expected to renovate eight housing units at an apartment complex behind the Historic Clayton County Courthouse. Seven housing units were renovated.
Using the audit report to back her up, Kidd said the eighth unit could not be completed because the county withheld the remaining grant funds needed to complete the project.
“We did seven and we could have done another one had they not stopped the funds,” she said.
Kidd also addressed a claim former Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell made to Clayton News Daily that numerous complaints had been logged with the county against the Jonesboro Housing Authority.
“I’ve had many citizens complain that the service was inadequate, very poor at the least, and that’s been happening for the last several years,” Bell told the newspaper Sept. 5.
But Kidd said she asked an attorney to request copies of the complaints submitted to the county under Georgia’s Open Meetings Act. The actual number of complaints didn’t match up to the perception.
“In five years, they received one complaint about JHA and it was about five years old,” Kidd said.
Kidd said the county’s accusations caused grief for her and the agency. She said she was called into Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day’s office the day after the audit was approved to answer questions about what was going on.
“It was really embarrassing,” she said.
Kidd delivered a copy of the audit findings to Day on Wednesday. On Thursday, the mayor said she was still reviewing the report and was not prepared to comment on the findings.