Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2019

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Report: Housing Authority staff ‘at all levels’ is complicit in fraud

neighborhood

Julie Jacobson / AP

In this Wednesday, May 29, 2013, photo a motorist pulls into the driveway in a neighborhood in Henderson.

A report released Wednesday by the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority alleges that a housing board commissioner may have abused her power and committed fraud and embezzlement and that other members of the agency and board may have colluded with her.

Conducted by top officials at the housing authority, namely Deputy Executive Director Theodore Tulle, the report alleges that Theresa Davis, a resident commissioner on the SNRHA Board of Commissioners from North Las Vegas, “appears to have engaged in unethical and illegal performance of the agency’s resources.” Her activities could constitute embezzlement of public funds and obstruction of justice, the report says.

The authority’s nine-person Board of Commissioners consists of one elected official from the participating communities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, two elected officials from Clark County, and one resident commissioner from Clark County, Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas. The North Las Vegas City Council and Mayor John Lee signed off on her appointment as the city’s resident commissioner in December 2013. Resident commissioners receive $80 per meeting they attend.

Since Nov. 9, 2007, Davis has been participating in the Housing Choice Voucher/Section 8 Program through the authority, which receives a limited number of vouchers from the federal government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. The vouchers subsidize housing for eligible low-income residents so they pay no more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

The report accuses Davis of misrepresenting personal information, including family income, household size and employment status, in order to maximize her voucher benefits. She conducted these alleged activities over the last three years, in part by seeking assistance from authority officers, program staff and board members, some of whom either helped her, were sympathetic to her or “turned a blind eye,” the report says.

She also used her position as a commissioner to attempt to influence and intimidate housing authority employees, which is expressly forbidden under the group’s bylaws, according to the report.

The housing authority sent the report to the city of North Las Vegas and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the latter of which may choose to pursue a criminal investigation into the alleged activities, the report says.

The report does not offer a directive to either HUD or North Las Vegas, but it concludes by questioning whether Davis is the best appointee to the board. Lee was unavailable for comment Thursday, but a spokesperson said the city is reviewing the report and “evaluating options” for its resident representative.

Davis did not respond to multiple phone calls, an email and a Facebook message sent to an organization she manages.

The authority became aware of Davis’ activities in September 2018 based on complaints from staff involved in the federal Family Self-Sufficiency Services Program, the report says. Davis is enrolled in the program, which aims to help participants improve their economic security, with the goal of eventually no longer needing welfare programs and rental assistance.

“At no time ... has Mrs. Davis become employed or reported earned income in her approximate eight years in the program,” the report alleges.

The report does not state which employees assisted Davis in her endeavors to maximize the financial benefits she received from the agency. But it says that officers and staff “from all levels of the agency” as well as fellow commissioners were complicit.

Chad Williams, who was appointed in May 2018, declined to provide details about potential collusion or corruption at the authority, saying that the report “speaks for itself.” However, in an interview with the Sun in April, Williams hinted at systemic internal problems that have historically plagued the authority.

“The housing authority, instead of being a good partner to address the affordable crisis [in Las Vegas] over the past 10 years, has been a contributor to the affordable housing crisis by not pulling local natives off the [housing voucher] waitlist,” he said.

Williams himself is the subject of an investigation prompted by complaints from current and former employees, one of whom accused Williams of sexual harassment, the Review-Journal reported in April.

Commissioner and North Las Vegas Councilman Scott Black, who represents North Las Vegas on the board, said an investigation is being conducted by an independent firm at the direction of the authority’s legal counsel, the law firm Parker, Nelson and Associates. Representatives from Parker, Nelson and Associates could not be reached for comment to confirm the status of the investigation, and Black said the board has little information about it.

“When the results come back, we’ll be able to convene those results in a board meeting,” he said.

Despite the allegations against Williams, 113 authority employees have signed a petition stating their support for him, according to meeting minutes from the March 21 board meeting. Martha Floyd, a resident program coordinator at the authority, said at the meeting that Williams has brought positive, effective leadership to the agency following a period of instability.

“In a short amount of time, Mr. Williams has come into this agency and has helped bring forth a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that has drastically lifted the morale in this agency,” Floyd said.

Williams wrote in an email that he looks forward to seeing the results of the investigation into the allegations against him. He believes that the allegations raised, he added, have been promoted by “two particular resident commissioners, at a critical moment when I am uprooting fraud, waste, corruption and abuse [of] power at all levels at the housing authority.”

He declined to comment further.