Home – that’s what nearly 10,000 Richmonders call houses and apartments run by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
RRHA claims its units provide an improved way of life for the people living there but our investigations have uncovered the agency using its massive taxpayer funded budget – nearly $72 million in 2013 – in a lot of ways that don’t seem to improve the lives of residents.
Here’s a recap:
– An agency credit card used to fund an employee and his wife’s private vacation in Las Vegas.
– Public funds used to pay for gambling trips to out of state casinos.
– Federal dollars used to buy personal items.
– Thousands spent on cable and Dish TV for an emergency operations center that does not even exist.
That’s just a sampling of what we’ve exposed taking place at RRHA.
Despite “accountability” and taking ownership for actions being listed as core values for the agency, we’ve found no one who wants to step up to the plate and answer our questions.
From the commissioners, to CEO Adrienne Goolsby, ask questions on how RRHA spends the public’s money and all you get is “no comment.”
Goolsby also does not want to talk about how much she’s paid. Responding to a freedom of information request, RRHA provided salary documents showing Goolsby was paid $178,500 last year – that’s more than then Gov. Bob McDonnell ($175,000,) and Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli ($150,000).
According to federal data collected in 2011, Goolsby’s compensation is in the top 3 percent of public housing executives in the entire nation. In 2012, in order to protect taxpayers from excessive salaries in public housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established a salary cap that dictates no public housing officials can be paid more than $155,000 a year in federal tax dollars.
But RRHA is using an accounting loophole to pay Goolsby. They claim her paychecks – which are tens of thousands above the cap – come from other “unrestricted funds.” That means the rest of her salary comes from rent paid by residents in RRHA housing and local Richmond tax dollars.
Goolsby is apparently making even more than RRHA admits to 8News. They claimed in writing she was paid $178,500 in 2013 and received “no bonus,” but a federal database shows RRHA reports paying its CEO closer to $184,000 in 2013 and she got a $10,000 bonus.
Nearly $200,000 to the CEO when other employees have received little or no raise in years and numerous people who call RRHA housing home say they can’t even get the authority to exterminate the bedbugs in their “improved way of life” apartments.
Our investigation is getting noticed in the highest levels of government. The office of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says the Senator plans to ask both HUD and RRHA to explain the salary discrepancy, saying it’s worrisome that RRHA is reporting one set of numbers to 8News and another to HUD. If they lie to HUD, there can be stiff financial penalties.
HUD’s Inspector General currently has an investigation underway at RRHA. It was launched late last year when we first began exposing waste in the troubled agency.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond