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2 former members trade jabs over woes


Published: Fri, March 10, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


The housing authority is asking for its $200,000 back.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- While Affordable Housing of Lawrence County deconstructs, two former board members began taking shots at each other for its problems.
The organization is now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and has been asked to repay a $200,000 low-interest loan the Lawrence County Housing Authority gave it when Affordable Housing was created in 2003.
Donald Conti, who is also known as "Ducky," questioned Affordable Housing's former president, Robert Evanick, about the embattled nonprofit's contract to collect coins from laundry machines at the county housing authority high rises. Conti was the most recent Affordable Housing board member to resign in January.
Evanick was the first to resign in December. Evanick is also the executive director of the county housing authority, and Conti is also a member of that board.
Three other Affordable Housing board members resigned between Evanick and Conti.
Coin machine questions
During Thursday's public housing authority meeting, Conti asked Evanick whose idea it was to give the laundry machine concessions to Affordable Housing. Conti joined Affordable Housing in 2004, and the agreement to collect the money was made in 2003.
"You said you wanted to do it," Evanick said to Conti. "You came in and took the records and you wanted to collect the quarters. You just came in and took it. You and Jon LiBrandi came in and took control."
Conti, however, contends the agreement to collect the money was made before he was on Affordable Housing's board.
Conti has said that Affordable Housing board member Jon LiBrandi was responsible for the collections until his death after a September 2005 motorcycle crash. Conti, who has muscular dystrophy and walks with crutches, said he took over the collections in October and November with a helper but did not collect any money in December because he could not find anyone to help.
Conti said Thursday that he kept more than $600 in quarters from those two months in his car trunk until he resigned from the board in January. He then turned them over to Deno DeLorenzo, an accountant who was asked to join the board in January.
Source of controversy
The laundry concessions have become a source of controversy since DeLorenzo released a balance sheet of Affordable Housing's expenses and profits that he prepared for HUD as part of its investigation.
DeLorenzo showed that no money was collected for the laundry machines in 2005, but that a $4,563.36 commission was paid to the housing authority. DeLorenzo could not explain the discrepancy.
Housing Authority chairman Robert Heath said Thursday he wanted to the housing authority to take control of the laundry machines in 2004, but he couldn't get any support from fellow board members.
Evanick said he intends to send Affordable Housing another letter requesting that it repay the $200,000 loan from 2003.
It's unclear whether the nonprofit can repay the loan.
It garnered scrutiny in December after buying seven duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes for prices well above their county assessed values. Affordable Housing had bought an eighth house the previous summer from a county tax sale. The group took out a $250,000 bank loan for the houses.
Earlier this year the group reported it had about $4,000 of the $200,000 housing authority loan left. Board members have said they spent most of the first $200,000 on consultant and architects fees for a failed project to build new housing in Union Township for the disabled.
cioffi@vindy.com


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