Hud Seizes Reins, Ousts 2 in Wellston Cites Management, Housing Woes

Article excerpt

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has frozen the assets and property of the Wellston Housing Authority and removed two of its executives as part of a takeover.

Andrew L. Boeddeker, acting director of HUD's office here, said Friday that Victor Stephens, executive director, and Bill Kelley, deputy director, had been placed on paid administrative leave since HUD's takeover Thursday.

In the meantime, James Foster and Janice Herold, HUD staffers, will run and manage the Wellston Housing Authority.

The authority manages 210 scattered housing units, has seven employees and reported an annual operating budget of $595,000 for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, 1995. The office is at 1585 Ogden Avenue in Wellston.

Reasons for the takeover include poor financial management, lack of records, high vacancies and deteriorated housing, Boeddeker said.

The Rev. James T. Jefferson Sr., chairman of the authority's Board of Commissioners, said: "We understand the takeover. We're sorry it happened because we all live in Wellston and take great pride in our community."

In a letter dated June 11, HUD Secretary Henry G. Cisneros said Wellston had been designated as a "troubled" authority since Dec. 31, 1992. This means that the authority has failed to comply with HUD's management standards.

Cisneros sharply criticized the authority for its lack of strong management. Since 1993, it has hired three executive directors. "Without a strong manager, the authority cannot take fundamental steps necessary to improve operations," he said.

Jefferson said that the board hired a management company about two years ago to address the authority's problems, but that "they did not do a good job. When the board concluded things were not getting done, it was too late. …