Indianapolis Housing Agency under federal scrutiny while files disposed

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As federal auditors have descended on the Indianapolis Housing Agency in the wake of two scathing investigations questioning the public housing agency’s spending and record keeping, FOX59 has acquired surveillance video of the outgoing IHA executive director clearing out file cabinets and dumping documents into black trash bags and recycling dumpsters.

Rufus Bud Myers left the agency after 18 years at its helm in late August.

Surveillance video shows Myers on at least two separate occasions removing documents from file cabinets in a common outer office area and disposing of them after cursory inspection.

Myers was unavailable for comment, and IHA did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

On July 12, 2018, the State Board of Accounts issued a report that, “noted missing documentation,” that, “appears to be the result of ineffective quality control processes,” and, “represents instances of non-compliance with federal regulations that could impact future funding.”

IHA spends approximately $63 million annually to provide shelter for 22,000 residents in IHA properties and Section 8 housing.

In response to the SBA audit, IHA agreed to hire a Quality Control Auditor and better train its staff.

Recently IHA staff was told that auditors would be arriving at IHA offices to conduct an investigation following a report from the Office of Inspector General last month that determined the agency had written off $2 million in accounts receivables and could not account for another $200,000 in additional write-offs.

HUD has appointed a monitor to oversee IHA housing operation.

Denise Herd of Herd Strategies, an IHA contracted spokeswoman, issued the following statement regarding the audits:

"As we are a federally regulated agency, audits 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."

IHA Asset Management Director Duane Ingram will be responsible for compliance with the accounting and audit changes.

It was Ingram who beat a hasty retreat, followed by catcalls, from a meeting of the Laurelwood Residents Council at a southside IHA property last Thursday night after admitting to attendees, “Every site that we have I have maintenance problems.”

Ingram lamented the lack of qualified maintenance staff to respond to the backlog of service requests from residents.

“We had a really rough summer for maintenance,” he said.

Cecciula Harris knows about maintenance delays.

“We had to live a year from August of last year to August of this year with a carbon monoxide leak that I didn’t know nothing about,” she said. “I have a little sister that live out here, and she’s been having problems with her power box to the point that it surged and was kind of like catching afire. To this day my niece don’t have power to her room in the hallway so it's still a problem."

“It ain't just my apartment, it's not hers next door, it's not my sister’s on the other side, it's all these,” said Harris. “I mean, what’s a community center that you can’t even get in or go in or access? There’s no access to that computer room, that day care is not open. They don’t even cut the grass over there.”

Before his departure, Ingram promised residents their maintenance and cockroach and mice infestation issues would be resolved in the coming week.

Of IHA’s 16 properties, Laurelwood has seen the greatest increase in crime, up 83 percent compared to a year ago, according to internal agency documents.

Other major properties have seen crime statistics climb 24-69 percent with three murders and 28 robberies being committed in public housing so far this year.

An internal IHA report lists a majority of the agency’s surveillance cameras as being out of order.

“It's kind of disturbing because for like us we need the help but we don’t want to be treated like we’re not getting the help,” said Harris whose infant son died of natural causes unrelated to the gas leak in her unit earlier this year.  “I don’t have too many other places to go, but I don’t want to be treated in any kind of way because I have to live in IHA apartments or housing.”

Harris said she feared being evicted from Laurelwood for speaking to a reporter.

“It could be better if everybody did what they were supposed to do.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett named Jennifer Green, president of Insight Development Corporation, the nonprofit development arm of IHA, as the agency’s interim director pending selection of new leadership.