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Friday, August 6, 2010

FROM WALLINGFORD - Checks and balances at WHA

As published in the Record Journal – Sunday August 1, 2010

by Jason Zandri


Over the past few days there have a number of articles in the paper regarding the Wallingford Housing Authority. In addition to the stories there have been even more letters to the editor regarding the same.

Not surprisingly, the comments in the letters to the Editor have fallen along party lines.

I’d like to review some of the accomplishments that have been made recently. I personally view these changes to be a positive for not only the best interests of the tenants but for the taxpayers as well.

Some of the letter writers opined that the changes that have occurred since Chairman Fischer was elected Chair of the WHA have been politically motivated and have not been in the best interests of the tenants.

So I offer these to you to make your own assessment.

The WHA by-laws, established in 1985, were replaced with new by-laws that are now in compliance as some no longer complied with more up to date State statutes.

Recently, a labor attorney was hired to negotiate the new contract between the Authority and Union employees. Previously, Director Nere and Commissioner Prentice negotiated for the Authority. It is important to note that Director Nere received benefits that were awarded to the union employees. Given these facts, there is the possibility of a conflict of interest when someone is a key negotiator and a recipient of the final agreement.

WHA employees can no longer use Authority vehicles for their personal use. In a day and age of responsible use of resources I am all for this. I say this should get reviewed for possible additional expansion to other town departments.

Another change that was made was to rotate meetings among the different elderly complexes making it easier for tenants to attend. Prior to this, all meetings had been held at the administrative office of the WHA.

Public question and answer periods are now a regular part of the Authority agendas where before they were not. This allows for open discussion from tenants or residents that attend the meetings.

Are these changes in the best interests of the tenants? I think so.

The Democrat commissioners supported Bill SB 320 authorizing tenants to appoint their own commissioner instead of the Town Council doing so. Director Nere applauded the Governor for vetoing the bill.

How is that action in the best interests of the tenants or the Wallingford taxpayers? This could have made it possible for the tenants to have voice in choosing the body that manages their complexes much in the same way they control their own destiny when they vote for their representation at the Town Council level.

The Democrat commissioners voted for a forensic audit to evaluate the books and records of the Authority. The Republican members voted against this.

I realize there is an associated cost to do this but it is comparatively low when you look at the total amount of funds that the WHA is responsible for. When you additionally look at some of the reported expenditures and the resulting purchases that do not seem to be comparable there is at least enough argument to defend the valid need for this audit.

If the audit doesn’t turn up anything then it was a piece of mind exercise that cost little more than what the town recently spent defending itself in contract arbitration. The argument for arbitration and the logical expenditure was made in an effort to try keeping salary costs in line. Performing an audit in an atmosphere of questionable accounting results is a logical expenditure as well.

If there’s nothing to find, nothing will be found. If something can be found then monies can be saved / returned / reallocated.

Why the “no” votes opposing an audit?

A good check and balance system, especially in government, should always be considered.

In light of the tight economy it should be mandatory.


  1. Forensic audit are very costly and may yield little value other than highlist known proceedural issues that need to be tightened up. Frankly for a portfolio of 317 units and voucher management, the housing authoity needs to be looking at other ways of doing business. Many towns have contracted out their management to private firms who operate more efficiently with an infrastucture able to handle several thousand units. Operating budget monies are then reallocated to much needed capital improvements and defferred maintenance to maintain the facilities and provide for a better living environment for the residents.

  2. I have asked and have been told the opposite at least for an initial audit in that it would not be overly expensive.

    At a minimum, if Bill Comerford is close to correct then costs will be covered in short order; here is his letter to the editor:

    Forensic audit

    Editor: I commend Commissioners Hogan, Mezzei and Chairman Fischer for stepping up to the plate and requesting a forensic audit for the Wallingford Housing Authority (WHA). After all, for the past 6 – 8 months, too much incorrect and/or misinformation has been told or supplied to them by the administration of the WHA (i.e. some payments to venders did not add up correctly as pointed out by tenant commissioner Hogan: Amount “paid to Nextel” $82,069.40, actual payment $3,319.42. Amount “paid to Linda Daley” $7,501.50, actual payment $1662.50). Many more examples exist. Tenant Commissioner Hogan showed the WHA Board of Commissioners that the 2008 audit was in incorrect by pointing out that the WHA “does not” own a $89,000 computer system or a $7,900 time clock as stated in the audit. It has also been pointed out that this same WHA has violated its own by-laws, state statutes and hiring practices over the past 25 years. Executive Director Nere, in an e-mail date July 13, 2010, states, in part, “Sorry if I sounded a little nuts . . . I could really care less if they do a forensic audit. Will I’s not be dotted, will T’s not be crossed? I’m sure given the requirements of the Feds.”

    Well, in my world and thankfully in the world of Commissioners Hogan, Mezzei and Fischer, these audit discrepancies are entirely unacceptable especially for the tenants and the public that funds the WHA. A forensic audit is long overdue.


  3. They don't need a forensic audit, they need a decent bookkeeper! The single audit act covers the town, not just the HA. Fire the damn audit firm and hire someone who knows what they are doing...if it's still a mess, then "investigate".