Michael Brown says Whole Lotta Possible Law Breaking Going On at Housing Department
At-large Councilmember Michael A. Brown, who has oversight of the D.C. Council's housing committee, says he's asking the District attorney general and inspector general to investigate "unethical behavior and possible criminal malfeasance and collusion between contractors and current and former employees of the Department of Housing and Community Development."
Brown says his office has been probing DHCD since last year, when it first began looking into the department's role in granting a $399,000* loan to the anti-youth violence group Peacoholics to buy a 13-unit apartment building in Congress Heights (which currently sits empty). During the course of that probe, Brown says his office has found evidence of "the brazen abuse of authority from multiple employees at the agency to financially enrich themselves and outside entities." Brown says he believes this evidence "has prompted administrative action against one high level DHCD employee yesterday" with more to follow.
That's about all the level of detail we have right now. Says Brown, in a news release: "Property records show that certain individuals and entities have [repeatedly] appeared in several questionable sales, purchases and land transfers," including the Congress Heights apartment building.
Peaceoholics' Jauhar Abraham, who is running for the Ward 8 Council seat, says he didn't do anything wrong on the Congress Heights deal and he didn't witness any type of wrongdoing by DHCD employees on that transaction either.
LL will update as more information becomes available. Here's Brown's news release:
I am deeply concerned by evidence that has been uncovered pointing to unethical behavior and possible criminal malfeasance and collusion between contractors and current and former employees of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
Through my role as the Chair of the Council's Committee on Housing and Workforce Development, on Monday July 12, 2010, I convened a public oversight roundtable on the "Peaceoholics Construction Project at 1300 Congress St. SE". This roundtable was held to determine the circumstances that led the previous administration to award the Peaceoholics more than $4.4 million to acquire and rehabilitate several properties including the Congress Street site. The information provided from the roundtable left many questions unanswered, especially in relation to entities with little or no housing experience receiving these District housing funds. Despite additional inquires; these unanswered questions were never adequately addressed by the previous leadership of DHCD.
More recently, the current DHCD leadership has become a willing partner, and in cooperation with recommendations from my office, has instituted more stringent quality controls in the awarding of funds. Also, at my request, the DHCD has conducted new reviews of existing projects that are currently being funded. This review has uncovered evidence, we expect, will show the brazen abuse of authority from multiple employees at the agency to financially enrich themselves and outside entities. We believe this investigation has prompted administrative action against one high level DHCD employee yesterday and we expect additional personal actions to follow.
This alleged malfeasance by District government employees and the repeated instances of certain outside individuals and entities have surfaced on numerous property records dealing with land transfers. Property records show that certain individuals and entities have repeated appeared in several questionable sales, purchases and land transfers, including the 1300 Congress St. SE property.
* This post has been updated to fix an error. According to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, the cost to purchase the Congress Heights apartments was $399,000.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery