The July 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

Shot Through the Heart in S.F.

Legal Challenge to Cruel Attacks on SF Homeless

GRIP's Shelter in Richmond

HUD Plans to Demolish Public Housing in New Orleans

Fresno Homeless Attacked

Stonewalling by Bush's ICH on Homeless Issues

Are We Not Our Brother's Keeper

Congress Refuses to Raise the Minimum Wage

Beyond Prisons: Challenge to the Prison System

Penal Servitude

The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

Poor Working Conditions for Immigrants

AFSC Sues Defense Dept. for Surveillance

Surveillance and Orwell's 1984

Enron's Good Fight

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Self-Realization

July Poetry of the Streets

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

The Worth of Education in the Phillipines


ARCHIVES

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 


Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Probe into Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

by Lynda Carson

Attorney Marc Janowitz, Attorney Laura Lane and Housing Coordinator Gracie Jones of the East Bay Community Law Center meet with tenants threatened with eviction due to corruption by an Oakland Housing Authority official. Lydia Gans photo

An investigation into corruption at the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) continues to shed light on questionable activities at the OHA's East District Office, leading to events in which 34 families have been accused of wrongdoing and are facing eviction from public housing at Lockwood Gardens, a Hope Vl project.

In April 2006, the OHA announced that a former employee, Carolyn Wilson, was involved in 34 instances of fraud and theft during the process of moving 34 families into public housing. At the same time, the OHA contends that the 34 families moved into public housing by Wilson are in some manner responsible for the fraudulent activities of the OHA's own employee.

The OHA is trying to evict at least 34 low-income households from public housing, but two recent rulings in Alameda County Superior Court have prevented officials from carrying out the evictions.

Wilson scammed tenants out of at least $10,750.00 as the price of moving them into housing units at Lockwood Gardens. Recently, OHA police investigators were forced to serve a search warrant on the very agency they are paid to serve, pointing to a lack of cooperation between OHA executive management and the OHA police as they pursue this investigation.

A search warrant affidavit filed in Alameda County on May 10, 2006, seeks the permission of the court for the seizure of electronic computer property from the Oakland Housing Authority, pursuant to Section 1536 of the Penal Code, signed by Magistrate J.W. Horner, a judge of the Alameda County Superior Court.

Investigators are demanding access to the computer used by Carolyn Wilson while she was employed at the OHA, which may contain e-mail records, correspondence, or chat logs in active files that may shed light on what has been taking place in the OHA during this period.
Meanwhile, in opposition to the OHA's mass eviction scheme, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith issued two rulings in mid-May that the OHA did not properly state a cause to evict the tenants at Lockwood Gardens.

Dissatisfied with the court's rulings, on June 5, 2006, the Oakland Housing Authority amended the complaint against the families at Lockwood Gardens in an attempt to evict the tenants again.

Corruption in the Oakland Housing Authority

The investigation into corruption in the Oakland Housing Authority is centered around an ex-employee named Carolyn Wilson who was employed by the OHA from November 2001 until December 2005, as a clerk typist.

Corruption in the OHA was first exposed when an eligibility applicant named Labrinina McDougle came into the OHA's Eligibility Office on December 6, 2005, to inquire about the status of her application for public housing. When her client number of 480968 was put into the system to see what her status was, information for Jamilah Page and Samantha Martin showed up instead on the computer; and it became apparent that someone had altered the files under that client number.

In an April 27 press release announcing why the OHA is evicting 34 families from Lockwood Gardens, OHA Executive Director Jon Gresley stated, "We want to serve the families who have legitimately applied for help and waited their turn."

Apparently, Gresley's statement did not apply to Labrinina McDougle, because even though she applied for help, waited her turn, and was the person involved in exposing the corruption at the OHA last December, McDougle was dumped completely from the public housing waiting list by the OHA.

"I was shocked when I went to the OHA and learned they lost my files," said McDougle in a June 17 interview. "They lost my files in the computer and all the documents I signed. When they ran my client number in their system, someone else's name and information would turn up. No one in the office could explain to me why that was happening, and they said they would have to get back to me.

"I feel like I lost my identity somehow. I still have not been able to move into public housing, and have since been told by an OHA supervisor named Ms. Miller that I would have to sign up all over again if I wanted to get on the public housing waiting list. I've already signed up three times to get on the waiting list for public housing and was on the Section 8 waiting list for 12 years. I do not want to sign up and start all over again."

Incredible as it may seem, after she was dumped from the public housing waiting list, the OHA is still using tenants such as Labrinina McDougle as a reason to evict the 34 families, and in the recent amended complaint to evict on June 5, the OHA states, "Defendants' continued occupancy (at Lockwood Gardens) is denying those persons who are legitimately and rightfully on the current list for public housing, and whose client numbers were wrongfully precluded from public housing."

The investigation begins

On November 29, 2005, Wilson moved Jamilah Page into Lockwood Gardens under the client number of Labrinina McDougle. On December 6, Wilson's activities could no longer be ignored after it was discovered that McDougle's file was missing, and information for Jamilah Page and Samantha L. Martin showed up in the OHA computer system when entering McDougle's client number.

A December 13, 2005, OHA Inter Office Memorandum from JW Jackson, East District Manager, to Teresa Miller, Chief of Eligibility, describes a fact-finding meeting that took place on December 9, 2005, between JW Jackson and Wilson, in which Jackson inquires about the move-in of Jamilah Page and Samantha L. Martin into Lockwood Gardens, and the computer discrepancy with McDougle's file.

Wilson admitted she moved Page and Martin into Lockwood Gardens, but could not explain why it was done under the client number of Labrinina McDougle. Dissatisfied with Wilson's response to his inquiry, Jackson terminated the meeting and advised her that there would be further fact-finding of the matter at a later date.

On December 8, 2005, only one day before Jackson's fact-finding meeting with Wilson took place, Teresa Miller spoke with Jackson. Jackson indicated he could not find a file for Labrinina McDougle and he further said that the East District Office was extremely disorganized and that files were missing from all areas. At this point, Miller sought an audit report on the file activity for Labrinina McDougle and Jamilah Page/Samantha Martin. The housing scam was about to be exposed.

Investigative documents mention that Carolyn Wilson accessed the OHA's computer system, without permission and in violation of OHA policy, to change data in the files and alter the existing records during the period from March 2005 through December 2005.

An audit of the OHA computer system by Terry McCully, an OHA analyst with Management Information Services, revealed that around 33 files in total were altered, including 1 file in March 2005, 3 files in August 2005, 2 files in September 2005, 8 files in October 2005, 16 files in November, and 3 files in December.

The 33 files had all been altered, and new names and information had replaced the original files of people on the waiting list to move into Oakland's public housing. All the applicant client numbers remained the same, but the names and data in the files were changed. Covington was replaced by Dale, Johnson was replaced by Bracken, Brown replaced by Thompson, and so on down the list.

Investigative documents mention that Wilson may be charged with grand theft, a felony, for collecting money under false pretenses, and that others - including a pastor and a worker in a homeless shelter - assisted Wilson in finding tenants for Lockwood Gardens. Documents also mention that a woman named Helen Wood had also worked for Wilson or was her partner during the period that corruption was taking place at the OHA.

The housing scam

Investigative documents mention that Wilson used others, including Diane Burr and Helen Wood, as intermediaries to assist in her unlawful activities, and that the families involved were instructed at times to meet these women at such locations as a Starbucks Coffee or a BART Station for the exchange of money, information or keys to the building they would move into.

Based on information and best estimates, Carolyn Wilson demanded at least $10,750.00 in cash from prospective tenants under false pretenses before moving them into Lockwood Gardens. Wilson received the following amounts from tenants: $800 from Lakisha Hines, $1000 from Chanteel Holoman, $700 from Tyesha Gipson, $500 from Loma Sojourner, $800 from Danielle Paxton, $500 from Kimberly Thornton, $1000 from Jamilah Page/Samantha Martin, $1000 from Yolanda Scoggins, $800 from Tomisha Wade, $550 from Samuel Lee, $500 from Sylvia Wilson, $800 from Adonneka Gilchrist, $800 from Margarita Amador, $500 from Danny Williams, and $500 from Lenisha Powell.

Investigative documents mention that Marticia Wood, the daughter of Helen Wood, also resides in Lockwood Gardens, was not on the active conventional housing list, and did not go through the eligibility process before moving in.

During an interview, Marticia Wood stated, "I was on the waiting list to move into Lockwood Gardens, and moved in on September 2, 2005. My mother contacted me and connected me with Carolyn Wilson. I paid an amount to move in, I pay my rent monthly and keep a low-profile. I am not facing eviction at this time."

Wilson did not work alone

Helen Wood, an accused collaborator with Carolyn Wilson and the mother of Marticia Wood, said in an interview with Street Spirit, "It was an OHA Police Department investigator by name of Jerold Coates who came by my residence in Hayward and told me that I faced 10 counts of bribery if I did not cooperate with the investigation into the activities that have been taking place at the OHA's East District Office in Oakland."

Indeed, investigative documents mention that an investigator from the OHA tracked down Helen Wood and met her at her apartment in Hayward on March 18, and obtained a statement.

The investigative documents mention that Helen Wood told the investigator that Carolyn Wilson of the OHA asked her to help with leasing the housing units at Lockwood Gardens, and that she (Wood) would collect documentation, including Social Security cards, income verification, ID's and security deposits, that would then be turned over to Wilson before the tenants moved into their housing units.

"I did not know that it was some kind of a housing scam going on during the time I assisted Carolyn Wilson in moving tenants into Lockwood Gardens," Wood said.

"Officer Jerold Coates of the OHA Police Department told me that he believed that everyone working at the East District Office of the OHA were involved in Carolyn Wilson's housing scam, and that Wilson had left me holding the bag after fleeing the state. Officer Coates told me that I would make a better witness for the Housing Authority and District Attorney's office, than to be a suspect. I helped 6 to 8 people move into Lockwood Gardens, and I received around $100 per person for assisting them for Carolyn Wilson. I met Carolyn at a 12-step program in Oakland back around 2002 or 2003, and we became friends."

In an interview, Wood described how the scheme was carried out by OHA staff. "I was told that the OHA was getting rid of the drug element at Lockwood Gardens, and that they were in a rush to fill the housing units up again by the end of September," Wood said. "And it was during my visits to Carolyn Wilson at the OHA that I met her supervisor Denise Daniel several times. Denise did not look at Carolyn's work before signing it; maybe she was just lazy, and I do not know what was really going on between them. Denise left the OHA shortly before Carolyn did and they threw a party for her."

Sources outside of the investigation also point out that, during the period when the corruption took place at the OHA, Denise Daniel, Carolyn Wilson's supervisor at the East District Office, was responsible for setting up a whole new system referred to as the Team Model that strategically placed Wilson in a position that allowed her to alter the data in the OHA computer system while moving tenants into Lockwood Gardens.

During a June 22 interview with Street Spirit, Denise Daniel said, "I was the District Manager of the OHA's East District Office before leaving the Housing Authority. I joined the OHA in June of 2004 and left during November of 2005. I have no comment about anything that occurred in the East District Office while I was the District Manager for the OHA. During May 2006, I was interviewed by John Whitson, and have no comment about the investigation that's taking place."

Whitson Investigations is a vendor of the OHA Police Department, and John Whitson is a private investigator located in Walnut Creek, and is listed as a member of the National Council of Investigation and Security Services.

As OHA District Manager, Denise Daniel was in a position to oversee everything taking place in the East District office. She suddenly resigned from her highly placed position at the OHA during the peak of Carolyn Wilson's unlawful activities at the East District Office.

Ms. Daniel has since found employment working with Oakland Community Housing Inc., a nonprofit housing developer in Oakland, and is listed as their acting director of property management on OCHI's website.

Are OHA police biased?

There may be some doubt as to whether the OHA police can conduct a fair investigation that is not biased against the tenants being accused of wrongdoing by the OHA. After all, the OHA police work for the Oakland Housing Authority. It was the OHA police that originally went to Lockwood Gardens late in the evening during recent months to serve 34 families a 5-day notice to surrender their housing to the OHA, or else.

Investigators seem bent on dividing the families up into two separate categories in their investigation. Documents mention that out of 34 families, six families paid money to "obtain occupancy clearance" to move into Lockwood Gardens, while others paid money towards security deposits.

Attorneys representing the tenants say the tenants themselves never claimed that they paid money to obtain "occupancy clearance" to move into their housing, and that their copies of statements to investigators show that they never used such language to describe what had occurred.

Then there is Marticia Wood, the daughter of Helen Wood, who states that she is not facing eviction; but the investigative documents mention that Marticia Wood was not on the active conventional housing list and did not go through the eligibility process before moving into her housing at Lockwood Gardens.

At this time, investigators have not publicly leveled any charges against any of the families at Lockwood Gardens or anyone in the Oakland Housing Authority, and the investigation continues. The OHA currently has nothing new to report and is still advising everyone to read the comments posted in their April 27 press release.

Regardless of how a judge or jury decides this case in the future, there is no doubt that it was Carolyn Wilson, an employee of the OHA, who unlawfully demanded cash payments from the desperate families needing low-income housing, before moving them into their rental units at Lockwood Gardens.

The question remains as to how many others in the OHA were involved or knew of Wilson's activities and in some manner are responsible for what has been taking place in the East District Office.

Attorneys for the Eviction Defense Center, East Bay Community Law Center and Bob Salinas from the law firm of Sundeen Salinas and Pyle continue to defend the tenants at Lockwood Gardens.

Lynda Carson may be contacted by e-mail at tenantsrule@yahoo.com


STREET SPIRIT
1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

© 2002-2006 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.

Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor and Web Design: Terry Messman