Housing authority director still out

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A week after the Opp Housing Authority placed its director on leave, it still remains unclear exactly what prompted the action.

Last Wed-nesday, members of the Opp Housing Autho-rity board placed Janie Weeks on paid administrative leave pending legal matters; however, board members would give no statements at the meeting as to the nature behind their session or the legal matters.

Board member Charles Willis said Tuesday that the housing authority board has met with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development authorities in recent weeks, in a routine meeting dealing with a voluntary compliance agreement.

However, there has been some discussion about the potential legal matters.

“Neither HUD nor Fair Housing has brought charges against anybody,” Willis said. “All they will say is that they are investigating. We’re in a wait and see mode. We made proposals, and we thought we had an agreement, but HUD reneged.”

At least two residents have threatened to file suit against either the housing authority or HUD charging wrongdoing by Weeks, but said they were unable to talk because of pending legal matters.

Another resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the two residents had received at least a $500 payment from HUD, but that they might continue their lawsuit if Weeks was not fully removed from her position.

“The agreement was for Weeks to be removed from office in return for the tenants not to file suit,” she said. “If they do not remove her permanently, they will more than likely file the suit.”

Residents from all three housing authority complexes – Barnes Street, Carver Court and Williams Road – alleged wrongdoing by Weeks.

Victoria Wells, a resident of one of the housing complexes, said she asked Weeks for more than a year for an upgraded apartment to help house her children.

Wells and her children, ages 14, 13, 10 and 3, were living in a two bedroom apartment at the time.

“Every time I would talk to (Weeks) about an apartment, I wouldn’t get a thing,” she said. “She would promise me an apartment, but then she would give the apartment to someone else.”

Wells said several times during the year, there were vacancies for an apartment the size she was requesting, but Weeks “wanted to put me where she wanted.”

Wells said she finally had to call HUD in order to get a larger apartment with adequate space for her family.

“I am mad,” she said. “I want her gone.”

As part of the dwelling lease residents sign when they become tenants in a housing authority complex, they are asked to furnish a signed statement if they wish to transfer to another unit based on family composition. Tenants are also required to provide the landlord information in writing, within 10 days if there is change in family income or family composition. It is unknown if Wells followed protocol.

Sabrina Davis also had a story.

“My stove caught on fire,” she said. “(Weeks) was supposed to put us in a hotel, but she didn’t. My grandbaby has asthma, and its nose was bleeding, but we had to stay in this apartment until it got fixed.”

It is unknown how long Davis and family were required to stay in the damaged apartment.

Additionally, Davis was required to pay $1,000 for new cabinets as a result of the fire.

“She acts like we are actually buying this place,” Davis said. “I was told that (the $1,000) was for the deductible.”

Davis did not elaborate on the cause of the fire.

The lease agreement does have a clause stating, “The landlord shall not be responsible to a tenant for condition created or caused by the negligent or wrongful acts or omission by tenant. The tenant acknowledges that he/she should consider obtaining renter’s insurance to cover personal property.”

However, the lease agreement also states “landlord shall offer standard alternate accommodations, if available, in circumstances when necessary repairs cannot be made within a reasonable time, unless the tenant rejects the alternative accommodation or if the damage was caused by the tenant, member of the tenant’s household or guests.”

Tenants also said they are sometimes charged “overage” fees that they have to pay at the housing authority.

“I talked to HUD and they said they do not charge overages,” Aaron Bogen said.

Under resident’s lease agreement, they are furnished hot and cold water, reasonable amounts of heat, gas and electricity in an amount not in excess of a posted utility allowance schedule.

“Tenant agrees to furnish and maintain all other utilities, gas and electricity in excess of the amount in the posted schedule of utility allowances, and shall be responsible for payment for all utilities in excess of reasonable amounts furnished by the housing authority.”

But residents don’t see it that way. They say they have no clue why they are being charged the overages when they pay for their electricity in their rent.

Residents said one of their neighbors was charged $1,000 in overages a few months ago.

“We have no idea what these overages are for,” Matthews said.

Davis agreed.

“So, we have no idea what we are paying these overages for,” Davis said. “This month, I have $150 in overages.”

Residents have an ever-growing list of allegations against Weeks.

Bogen’s wife, Norma Stoudemire, said she was evicted from her apartment for being “a little late.”

“I took my money over there,” she said. “And (Weeks) wouldn’t accept it. She told me to come and see her. I went by, and she wasn’t there. She eventually evicted me. I had a handicapped child who was paralyzed from the waist down.

“I talked to a lawyer, and eventually we got to stay there until September,” Stoudemire said.

Under tenants’ lease agreements, rent is due the first day of the month and is considered delinquent after the seventh of each month. After that a $25 penalty is charged.

According to the lease agreement, if there is a breach in the lease agreement, it must be remedied within 14 days after receipt of a notice to terminate the lease or the lease will terminate on the date provided in the notice unless it is adequately remedied.

The board will meet tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Opp Senior Citizen Center on Brantley Street for its regular monthly meeting.