Feb. 5, 2003 – A Housing Authority oversight contributed to the mishandling of agency-issued checks by a VIHA employee, according to the authority's executive director, Ray Fonseca.
In a statement, Fonseca acknowledged and responded to charges leveled a day earlier by Sen. Celestino White.
White, in a letter sent to Fonseca and distributed to the media on Monday, said several tenant allowance checks issued by the authority to an individual since deceased had been illegally endorsed by at least one employee. White indicated that if Fonseca and the VIHA governing board did not investigate the "serious wrongdoing," he would seek to have the Senate Housing Parks and Recreation Committee do so.
"I am confirming the statement" made by White, Fonseca said in his response on Tuesday. He did not seek to excuse what had occurred but explained that the apparent misuse of five checks totaling $173 stemmed from the death of a Housing Authority employee's mother, who as a public housing resident received monthly VIHA utility allowances.
"The employee's mother was entitled to the utility refund checks up until the time of her passing," Fonseca said. After her death, he said, "the Housing Authority should have completed a recertification. After recertification, a new head of household should have been installed and the name on the checks should have been changed to the new head of household. Therefore, no further checks should have been issued by the Housing Authority in the employee's deceased mother's name."
He said the new head of household is the employee's sister, who is eligible for the utility subsidy, and that the appropriate records have been updated to reflect this change.
Five checks issued to the deceased woman after October 2001 were identified as having been endorsed illegally. One represented a utility refund of $5, and each of the others was for less than $45. Fonseca said the Housing Authority employee has since reimbursed the agency for the total amount of $173.
Meantime, the illegally signed checks have become the subject of discussions between Fonseca and the Attorney General's Office. A report on those discussions was expected to be presented to the VIHA board on Wednesday on St. Croix.
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