DuPage housing group, feds nearing repayment deal
The DuPage Housing Authority won't be required to pay a lump sum amount to the U.S. government after mismanaging more than $10 million in federal funding.
Instead, the Wheaton-based agency is expected to use its nonfederal sources of revenue to gradually return money to its operating fund so it can "benefit the people who need it most," federal officials said.
Authority officials say the payback proposal is possible because of reforms implemented since a series of federal audits revealed the agency misspent or failed to account for about $10.5 million.
"The government is in deep discussions with the housing authority regarding a complete resolution of these issues because we've been working very closely with HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)," said David Hoicka, the executive director of the agency. "We're talking about how we can pay the appropriate amounts of money in repayment agreements."
Hoicka replaced the authority's former executive director John Day, who was forced to resign last year after two audits critical of the agency were released by the federal Office of Inspector General. A third audit concluded the agency improperly spent more than $5.8 million in federal money and failed to adequately document another $4.7 million.
With the authority getting about $35 million of its roughly $37 million in annual revenue from the federal government, officials acknowledge it's difficult for the authority to repay millions of dollars from its nonfederal accounts.
"Clearly, the authority does not have that much money," HUD spokeswoman Laura J. Feldman wrote in an email. "So the final resolution will be an agreement whereby the (housing authority) pays itself so much each year."
There is a chance the authority won't have to repay the full amount if it can show instances where federal money was properly used. It includes verifying that individuals where entitled to the housing assistance they received.
"Definitely, there was money that was used inappropriately," Hoicka said. "We're not questioning that. In other cases though, the documentation wasn't done properly or was completely missing."
In the meantime, Feldman said the authority is making "excellent progress in clearing up the administrative issues" that resulted in the audit findings.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin replaced every member of the housing authority board after the release of the third audit.
The revamped housing board has since adopted a variety of policy changes, including an ethics ordinance, a travel policy and a purchasing policy.
Hoicka said the agency, which recently received a "clean" audit from an outside firm, is "diligently" complying with HUD regulations.
"We're looking to move forward from the way things were done in the past," he said.