Feds close out review of Portsmouth housing authority, after concerns

13News Now Laura Geller broke the story about federal officials closing their review of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has closed out the review of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority this week. The director of public housing sent notice to Alisa Winston, Acting Executive Director of PRHA on June 26, according to a spokeswoman for HUD.

We now know what are the several items of concern found by inspectors, recommendations they made and how PRHA responded and took action.

The review began with a three-day site visit in December, where HUD inspectors examined how the PRHA Board of Commissioners governs and how the Board and Authority operate financially.

The HUD Richmond field office requested the review after numerous concerns about the agency, which provides housing for some of Portsmouth’s most vulnerable citizens, came to light.

13News Now has learned one main concern for HUD inspectors was that at the time, only one member of the Board of Commissioners had any experience in the housing industry. Former board Chairwoman, Flossie Bridgeford is a realtor.

“It was concluded the board members lacked the adequate industry knowledge to effectively provide oversight and leadership,” HUD spokeswoman Lisa Wolfe wrote us.

As a result, Portsmouth City Council replaced the previous Board of Commissioners with new members, many of whom have experience serving on boards and in fields such as finance, planning and development, human resources and public administration.

Inspectors also expressed concern PRHA did not have a formal financial internal control policy. This is a document that would make sure there is proper handling of all finances, safeguards against waste and specific rules governing credit card usage and check writing.

You may remember there were concerns about the former board chair wanting to sign checks, among other financial issues.

After hearing of the finding, HUD said the Board of Commissioners adopted a new strict financial policy and is providing additional training to make sure staff knows the rules and complies with them. The policy was formally adopted on May 30.

When residents of Portsmouth’s housing projects learned of the review, they told 13News Now these answers are about their survival.

“These are the people you all are helping, you all are giving aid to, to survive, but at the same time how can somebody raise a home with three or four kids and they're living in mildew,” one resident added. “It's just ridiculous.”

Portsmouth Redevelopment & Housing Authority Acting Executive Director Alisa S. Winston sent 13News Now this statement:

"we are pleased that HUD has closed its review and appreciate the assistance they have provided to the Authority. Our staff and Board of Commissioners are committed to serving out residents and the City of Portsmouth."

Internal Control Policy by 13News Now on Scribd

Resolution by 13News Now on Scribd

BOC Bylaws by 13News Now on Scribd

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