Housing director under fire

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Lawrence County’s housing authority board members have called a special meeting this week to find out why they weren’t told of the poor rating the federal government gave the authority’s finances in a recent review.

Board member Mike Mancuso said he learned about the rating because it was mentioned by an official from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when the two were talking about training for the board of directors.

According to Mancuso, authority director Robert Evanick was informed of the rating Nov. 18 via e-mail and again by e-mail Dec. 29 by HUD officials.

A special board meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at the authority.

Mancuso said he expects part of the meeting to be an executive session to discuss Evanick’s performance.

“The underlying issue for all of this is why this was never disclosed to the board,” Mancuso said.

When HUD completed its annual review of the authority for 2005, the authority scored 70 out of 100 points, making its performance “standard.” But, in a subcategory looking at finances, the authority received a 50 percent rating, which puts it in a “substandard” or troubled financial rating under HUD’s guidelines.

Mancuso said he has not yet questioned Evanick about the matter and feels that it’s an issue for the entire board of directors to address at Friday’s meeting.

Mancuso did note that a HUD official has informed him the authority has lost its ability to appeal the rating because too much time has passed since the notification was sent.

Evanick said today he was planning to tell the board about the rating at the February board meeting when he had hoped to have something more official than an e-mail.

“I guess I’m a computer dinosaur,” Evanick said, noting that if he had received a formal letter, it would have gone to the board of directors as well.

Evanick said he did not intend to appeal HUD’s rating.

“There was nothing to appeal. We knew what our financial situation was. We had no grounds to appeal,” he said.

He said the authority received the substandard financial rating because in 2005 the authority’s cash reserves fell below the minimum required by HUD. He said that occurred because of a combination of HUD funding cuts and high natural gas bills.

Evanick said the authority now has three months’ worth of expenses in its reserves, the HUD requirement, which it attained through cutbacks and changes made in the last year.

“I knew I had taken the appropriate steps to correct it,” Evanick said of the financial rating.

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