AHA Stalls on Questions from Press, Residents

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(APN) ATLANTA — So far, Atlanta Housing Authority has not been responsive to press queries from Atlanta Progressive News, or document requests from public housing resident leaders.

PRESS QUESTIONS SENT ALMOST ONE MONTH AGO

This reporter, on behalf of Atlanta Progressive News, emailed a list of questions to Rick White, spokesperson for Atlanta Housing Authority, on August 16, 2007, now over almost three and a half weeks ago.

White, who doesn’t work directly for AHA but whose company, Atlanta crisis consulting firm, Alisias, is contracted by AHA, wrote, “Thank you for the questions. I will work on developing the answers and getting a response from you.”

When AHA still had not replied as of September 02, 2007, APN sent a follow-up email stating that APN would be running a story regarding AHA’s response, or lack thereof, within one week.

White responded on September 03, 2007, “Yes, we are still working on the answers. I will get them to you as soon as possible.”

As of today, the following questions still remain unanswered, in relation to the mortgage fraud crisis facing AHA voucher holders throughout Atlanta:

1- How many AHA families have been affected by foreclosure in the year 2007?

2- Have any of these properties been properties owned by AHA? If so, which ones?

3- What is AHA doing to address this issue? (open-ended)

4- Specifically, what is AHA doing to ensure that landlords receiving rent assistance for tenants from AHA… that their mortgage is in good standing?

4b- I noticed voucher recipients were asked to provide documentation for their recertification. What documentation, if any, do landlords have to provide to AHA after the initial set up of the agreement?

6- Are all voucher holders affected by a foreclosure guaranteed assistance with (a) a new voucher, (b) deposit on new place, (c) utility transfer, (d) moving assistance, (e) any other issues? These are the things Ms. Brewer appears to have eventually received. What about the other families?

Previously, AHA had not responded to a list of questions posed by APN’s Senior Staff Writer Jonathan Springston in April 2007, although AHA did then promise to reply.

Also, AHA did not provide a public report summarizing their plans to demolish public housing when it was requested by the present reporter in April 2007.

Readers may recall, in April 2007, White asked this APN reporter, “Are you a member of the media?… Well, why don’t you act like one?” when the present reporter was asking a question of AHA director Renee Glover during commotion which occurred at an AHA public hearing.

More recently, Rick White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper on August 09, 2007, that he had been “misled” by one of his other clients, Atlanta City Councilman Lamar Willis. Although White allegedly dropped Willis as a client, the incident raises questions about whether White does due diligence to ensure the statements he makes to the press and community have a factual basis.

“We [Alisias] specialize in providing confidential advice to individuals and entities that are distressed and/or under attack by the media, the public and special interests,” according to a description on PRWeb.com.

There is no listing for Alisias in the Georgia Corporations Database, although it may be a trade name.

RESIDENTS’ PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST DENIED

Diane Wright, President of the Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Advisory Board (RAB), and Shirley Hightower, Treasurer, sent a letter dated July 30, 2007, to AHA, requesting numerous documents related to the proposed demolitions of Atlanta public housing.

The requests were made both under the Open Records Act, and under AHA’s obligations to undertake meaningful consultation with the residents regarding their plans, Lindsay Jones, attorney at the Emory University School of Law, told Atlanta Progressive News.

The RAB Board requested 29 categories of documents from AHA.

AHA has not provided a single document in response.

“Although the Open Records Act [ORA for brevity] provides for the disclosure of certain categories of records only, your request appears to call for the production of other types of information… Although many of your requests call upon AHA to research the answers to a number of questions, such questions are not provided for under the ORA,” Angela Chadwick, Associate General Counsel, wrote in an August 03, 2007, response obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

“Most of your requests appear to seek documents which have not been created, in that they seek to have AHA compile or create new documents, while the ORA does not require AHA to create documents which do not exist,” Chadwick wrote.

Jones disagreed. “Documents is very broad and includes electronic media… digital information that they can print out. They can run reports. They could say, we have data that is in various fields. When you compile it, you’re saying the information is documented,” Jones said.

“If I asked them to turn over a report of all their vendors, they could generate that because it could all have been electronically stored. What they tend to use is to throw out the intimidation, you’re not gonna get it,” Jones said.

Jones also said that AHA failed to respond individually to each category of requested items, even if it did believe that some categories included items they were unable to produce.

The HUD requirements for any and all demolition/disposition applications under “Section 18″ include consultation with the residents. Therefore, AHA could be jeopardizing its own ability to pursue demolitions with HUD by denying the RAB Board access to requested documents.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndicaton policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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