EXCLUSIVE: AHA Whistleblower Corroborates Document Forgery
(APN) ATLANTA — Exclusive testimony by a whistleblower who formerly worked for the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) corroborates the case that AHA seems to have deceived the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regarding its consultation with the Resident Advisory Board (RAB Board) regarding their demolition applications for Jonesboro North, Jonesboro South, Inglewood Manor, U-Rescue Villa, and Leila Valley, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
HUD’s demolition/disposition applications under the “Section 18″ program–different from HOPE VI–require a Housing Authority certify and explain how they consulted with resident groups and advocacy groups, particularly the RAB Board. To make a case for how they met this requirement, AHA sent in the fabricated meeting minutes and other documents.
The whistleblower, Anthony Bostic, was cited in the forged documents [and the real ones, also obtained by APN] and was the individual who presented to the RAB Board AHA’s demolition plans in general, and also put together the relocation plans for AHA for the applications to HUD. Bostic previously blew the whistle on other agenda wrongdoing in a previous APN exclusive about widespread voucher terminations.
APN first reported to the City Council of Atlanta in a public comment on December 03, 2007, that AHA had forged meeting minutes, sign-in sheets, and meeting agendas for the Jurisdiction Wide RAB Board’s February 14, 2007, meeting, in the five applications. APN published an article regarding the matter on December 04, 2007.
On December 05, 2007, APN notified the Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD, Jereon Brown, as well as the director of the Special Applications Center which received the applications, Ainars Rodins, of the misrepresentation to HUD by AHA. Brown thanked APN for the information and said he forwarded it to the Program Director for Public and Indian Housing.
As Atlanta Progressive News has reported for some time, AHA did not consult with the RAB Board. Indeed, a copy of the February 14, 2007, RAB Board Meeting minutes, prepared by Louis Amey, Secretary, obtained several months ago by APN, state Barney Simms and Anthony Bostic of AHA made a presentation regarding the demolitions to the RAB Board.
“At Antoine Graves [senior high-rise] we did have a meeting, I believe it was on February 14th. I did go through the standard Quality of Life Initiative (QLI) presentation. It did not call for a vote nor did it call for any meaningful resident feedback,” Bostic recalled in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.
“All of our presentations invite residents to ask questions, but it wasn’t really anything where we took any of their thoughts into consideration. Or take any of their thoughts to brainstorm about them and get back to them. The meeting was not designed to incorporate any of their feedback into the plan. It was more of an announcement and trying to convice residents it’s a good thing,” Bostic said.
“It wasn’t that it was in draft form and we’re trying to incorporate [their concerns]. It was to alert the residents of what is going on. But the plan had already been finalized. By February 14th, we’d already met with Concerned Black Clergy and had a meeting at Pascale’s restaurant with local elected officials,” including several City Council Members and State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, Bostic said.
“When we met with them [the RAB Board] the plan was in place. If we had gone back into serious revisions we would have had to have gone back to the political officials to make an announcement of what we were doing. The [QLI] plan was already announced, promoted, and disseminated,” Bostic said, adding that the demolition applications themselves were not ever made public to his knowledge.
Bostic made an analogy to illustrate AHA’s presentation to the RAB Board. “I’m inviting you to my house, we’re having steak, shrimp, and salad. And it doesn’t matter that you’re a vegetarian. I told you what was on the menu. But [you say] there was no opportunity for me to voice my opinion that I’m a vegetarian,” Bostic said.
Did AHA ever go back and consult with the RAB Board about the applications? “I didn’t and I don’t believe it was done.” Bostic left the agency in May 2007 after apparently being fired for exposing agency wrongdoing. “To my knowledge, there was not a time that we actually went to the residents and said, what do you think about this? Our position is to demolish the properties, and put the residents in a better situation,” Bostic said.
“Our plan was around how do we meet basic HUD requirements? They would probably use [the meeting minutes] to show consultation but again that wasn’t an opportunity for consultation,” Bostic said. “It’s kind of an undertone, we have to involve the residents because HUD tells us to do so, but they don’t get it. They’re complacent. They want the status quo even though it’s not best for them.”
According to the real minutes from the February 14 meeting, after Bostic’s presentation, the floor was opened to questions. “Some of the questions or concerns were: Doesn’t AHA need approval from JWC [Jurisdiction-Wide Council also known as the RAB Board] to move forward? (Answer:) AHA doesn’t need approval from JWC and they only need approval from HUD. They are just letting us know what the plan is so we can tell our Residents what to expect,” the real minutes state.
“I remember the question coming up. Barney [Simms] probably gave the answer. That was the sentiment: we’re not seeking your approval,” Bostic told APN.
However, the demolition applications contain a different version of the minutes from the same meeting, apparently composed by AHA. These minutes are only one page, instead of two pages, and they contain completely different descriptions of what went on that day. They do not include AHA’s assertion of only needing to tell residents their plans but not consult with them.
Who typed up the fake RAB Board meeting minutes?
“I know I did not and I probably know who did. Probably someone on his [Simms’s] staff but I don’t know. I knew we had to have evidence to submit to HUD. It [putting together the demolition applications] didn’t fall under my realm, so I didn’t pay attention to it very much. It actually fell under real estate management,” Bostic said.
“We [AHA] did type them up. We had a staff person there on Barney’s team that was there to type the minutes for the purpose of the application and not necessarily working with the Secretary [of the association]. I have no knowledge that we ever reached out to the Secretary of the body to get their notes,” Bostic said.
“If they also seem very rote, standard, they’re all part of the same format… You’re not gonna have 5 or 6 public housing residents using the same legal language,” Bostic said. “All 6 communities have their own Secretaries and their own set of minutes.”
The demolition applications also contain typed-up sign in sheets, which RAB Board President Diane Wright says are not the RAB Board’s actual sign-in sheets. The sign-in sheets sent to HUD were typed, whereas the AHA sign-in sheets contain handwritten names.
The demolition applications also contain copies of the agenda from that meeting, although Wright says it is not the actual agenda. APN has actual RAB Board agendas from other months and they are not in the same format nor font, nor on the same letterhead, as the agenda AHA sent in to HUD.
Residents, press, advocates, and local officials have been trying to see copies of the applications for months. Wright told City Council in a July 2007 Work Session that AHA refused to let her see the applications, a Channel 26 video shows.
Attorney Lindsay Jones, also of Emory University, helped residents with a public records request to AHA including a request for the applications, where AHA never responded to the individual items.
City Councilwoman Felicia Moore also requested the applications several times, she told APN. Wright also hand delivered to AHA’s director, Renee Glover, a second public records request at the November 2007 AHA Board of Commissioners and never heard a response, she said.
AHA’s spokesperson, Rick White, first told APN they would be happy to share the documents, but about one hour later said it would have to go through with public records. APN finally obtained them from HUD’s Freedom of Information office after six weeks of attempting to view them.
AHA also told HUD they received no written comments on the applications but the problem is that they were not made available to the public for such comment.
Residents and advocates are continuing to pursue an injunction against AHA, and are also interested in possible criminal charges against relevant AHA officials. The City Attorney recently told Council that AHA is liable for its own damages.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at email@example.com
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