INDIANAPOLIS — Three sets of federal and contracted state auditors will descend Monday on the headquarters of the Indianapolis Housing Agency to conduct financial reviews to determine if the public housing entity is broke.
“We (my management team and Housing and Urban Development) have found that the financial condition of IHA to be deficient. The agency’s expenses outweigh its revenue so consequently, it is difficult to meet payables,” IHA Interim Executive Director Marcia Lewis wrote in a statement to CBS4 News. “IHA is also severely understaffed but until financial realignments and improvements are made, we cannot address that in many cases.”
Lewis wrote that her staff would attempt to identify additional potential revenues and income as well as re-examining expenses and seek funds owed by HUD to resolve the agency’s financial crisis.
The former executive director whom Lewis replaced told CBS4 News that the agency’s financial status was even more dire when he arrived in the late winter of 2019.
“I was excited about the opportunity to come clean up and reform an agency,” former executive John Hall said in an exclusive interview. “I think it was my first or second week on the job I received a subpoena from the State Board of Accounts.”
Hall said he found accounting and contract controls had been non-existent or derelict for years under previous IHA management.
“One of the comments I had from the HUD program leadership is, ‘How are we finding all this stuff wrong with the agency and nothing’s coming back on your audits?’,” he recalled. “When I arrived, I saw that the agency had no contracts, or very few contracts with vendors, so a lot of money was going out the door without the proper internal controls.”
Hall said he was further hampered by continued vacancies in the position of chief financial officer and the need to remove administrators and associates who had participated in previous mismanagement or questionable financial deals in an effort to meet the demands of federal monitors.
“It was really about showing progress, knocking off the list of items that were on this recovery plan and I think that’s what they were hungry for, they actually wanted to see IHA move forward and I think that’s what we accomplished,” he said. “Most definitely IHA is in a better position today than it was 34-36 months ago.”
Hall’s comments came in early January, in the wake of his announced departure pending the anticipated expiration of his three-year contract. He has since signed a non-disclosure agreement with the City that forbids him from speaking publicly about the agency he left behind.
Mayor Joe Hogsett has told CBS4 News that he has no plans to permanently replace Hall, pending agency financial and operational reviews this summer.
Hogsett also indicated that all options regarding the future of IHA, which could include further privatization of its management and ownership of housing units that serve an estimated 25,000 Marion County residents, are on the table.
At the time of his departure, Hall was named as the victim of a whistleblower complaint alleging vast conflicts of interest, insider dealing and no-show contracts that have plagued IHA for a decade.
Hall said he sent a summary of that complaint to IHA’s legal counsel and his chief deputy, who was Lewis.
Days later, Hogsett told CBS4 News that he did not have any independent knowledge of the complaint and had not seen a copy.
Sources indicate that the FBI and HUD Office of Inspector General have received the complaint and made inquiries.
Hall told CBS4 News that it is possible he may not have been aware of activities going on behind the scenes that undermined his management of IHA.
“There’s gonna be some politics or external factors that may prohibit IHA from becoming the best agency that it can be,” he said.