Hogsett promises ‘new leadership team’ at Indianapolis Housing Agency

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Following a FOX59 investigation into findings of financial mismanagement, potential conflicts of interest and property management shortfalls, Mayor Joe Hogsett appears to be on the verge of cleaning house at the Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA).

“If there is conduct that is not keeping with transparency and openness, that needs to change and a new leadership team will be coming very shortly and hopefully to the extent that any of these allegations prove to be accurate, we’ll get to the bottom of it and people will be held accountable,” said Hogsett.

Federal and state auditors issued reports this summer that IHA wrote off $2 million in accounts receivables, lost track of another $200,000 in write-offs and lacked sufficient internal audit controls.

Auditors are continuing an examination of IHA’s operation this month and a federal monitor has been appointed to oversee the administration of 16 properties, 7400 Section 8 units and the housing of 22,000 people at a cost of $63 million per year.

An IHA spokeswoman responded:

"As we are a federally regulated agency, audits are are a standard operating procedure and are conducted nationwide to ensure affordable housing agencies are operating efficiently and  addressing the needs of our residents. As with any entity there are times when deficiencies may be found and corrections are required. As an agency we are responding to the concerns by HUD and making the appropriate corrections when necessary.  We value the feedback HUD provides through their regular evaluations and want the entire community to know that the IHA staff is committed to implementing changes that will strengthen our operations."

Crime is up 24%-83% at IHA’s five biggest properties with three murders and 28 robberies occurring while the vast majority of IHA’s surveillance cameras are out of order.

Last week residents angry over longstanding unfulfilled maintenance requests forced the retreat of the agency’s Asset Management Director Duane Ingram from the Laurelwood community after he admitted, “Every site that we have I have maintenance problems…We had a really rough summer for maintenance.”

FOX59 has reviewed insider concerns about conflict of interest in the proposed award of a $400,000 grant to a popular north side restaurant that resulted in the resignation of the eatery’s owner from an IHA not-for-profit board.

A source has provided FOX59 with surveillance video captured on working cameras in IHA’s headquarters on North Meridian Street of Executive Director Rufus Bud Myers donning gloves to clear out file cabinets in the main office and dispose of documents into large dumpsters and black trash bags in the days before he stepped down as agency boss after 18 years.

“What (FOX59) doesn’t know is that while there are cameras there were people from the legal department on the site also. He was never alone,” a spokeswoman told FOX59 News.

The time stamp on the video shows Myers alone in an empty office at night and on a weekend.

FOX59 News has been unable to reach Myers for comment.

“To the extent that there’s been any mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, to the extent that there’s been any evidence of unethical conduct, we’ll get to the bottom of it and we’ll make the appropriate changes,” said Hogsett.  “I am optimistic that while we are getting to the bottom of some of the allegations that have been made, some of the findings of the reports that have been done, we’re also in the process of really overhauling the entire agency and, in so doing, I hope eliminate any kind of problems that may have occurred before and go forward on an important basis.”

IHA is supported in its mission by a pair of not-for-profit entities: Insight Development Corporation and T.R.U.S.T. Corporation.

Cynthia Wright Wilson was listed this summer as the owner of Kountry Kitchen on a roster of IHA TRUST Corporation Board Members.

At its July 24th meeting, the Insight Development Board was on the verge of awarding Kountry Kitchen a $400,000 pass-through federal grant to expand its property in the 1800 block of North College Avenue and purchase new kitchen appliances to further its catering business, adding 16 fulltime jobs.

Insight Development intended to realize 20% ownership, “in the construction and equipment purchased,” by Kountry Kitchen, which has provided food services for past IHA events.

In its resolution awarding the grant, Insight confirmed it was awarded an $800,000 grant in 2016 to develop a residential and retail mixed-use development at 901 Ft. Wayne Avenue to be known as “The Pratt.”

When that deal fell through, Insight sought to re-steer that money toward Kountry Kitchen.

During the July meeting, an Insight board member raised concerns about conflict of interest in awarding the $400,000 Equity Investment to a restaurant owner who did regular business with IHA and served simultaneously on the TRUST Corporation Board.

As a result, the resolution was tabled.

On July 31st, one week later, it was announced that Wright Wilson would be stepping down from the TRUST Board, thus eliminating any on-going conflict of interest, and placing the Equity Investment resolution back on the board’s August 22nd agenda where it was approved.

Insight Development President Jennifer Green has been named the interim director while Mayor Hogsett promises the examination of IHA operations remains, “a top priority of the administration as we engage in a nationwide search for new leadership so it is being given the priority that it deserves.”