A Jackson man has been paid over $100,000 in public funds for a Yazoo City Housing Authority job with no documentation that shows exactly what he has done for nearly two years.
Yazoo City Housing Authority board members were baffled with the discovery that there is no documentation behind “predevelopment” work performed by Donald Martin, the owner of Martin’s Specialized Services.
Following the recent death of former HA director Betty Reed, the current housing board has started reviewing several contracts she handled during her tenure. One contract with Martin Specialized Services caught the attention of the housing board during its Tuesday meeting.
Martin Specialized Services has been paid $5,000 a month for the past 22 months, totaling to $110,000 from the HA’s operating account. But no documentation of what work owner Donald Martin has done can be produced for the housing board.
And Martin, himself, admitted this week that he has been paid for seven months without doing any work.
“Since June no work has been done,” asked Mamie Williams, housing board member.
“No,” Martin replied.
“But you have been paid,” Williams asked.
“I have been on the phone with architects…” Martin continued.
“Do you have any documentation of that,” Williams asked.
“No,” Martin replied.
A contract was signed between Martin and Reed in March of 2017 for “construction management services.” Martin told the housing board this week that he is the “project manager” for the $43 million-dollar Rental Assistance Demonstration project.
But Lilli Evans-Bass, the RAD attorney for the Yazoo Housing Authority, said the contract raises some questions.
“This refers to a project that is not defined in this contract,” Evans-Bass said. “I don’t know what the project is. He (Martin) says it’s RAD. Is there some other document somewhere that defines what this project is that he is working on? Based on this agreement, he is working on some unknown project that nobody knows what it is. And he has been hired for some amount of time that nobody knows how long for.”
The contract provided to the housing board does not mention the RAD project specifically at all. Attorneys for the housing board said they have never seen the contract before.
Alpresteon Billings, current housing director, also said there are no board minutes that show the housing board’s approval of Martin’s contract. But she said Martin has been working for the housing authority, going behind teams to make sure plans and studies were completed correctly.
Martin said he has worked on various projects including “looking at blueprints and working with architects.” He said he removed about $360,000 “worth of stuff that was unnecessary, going through blueprints and deciding what was needed.”
But Martin admits that after Reed announced her retirement from the HA last June that he has not worked.
“I haven’t done anything,” Martin said.
Martin also admits that he has never submitted reports because “there is nothing to check.”
“I’m supposed to report on construction,” he said. “We haven’t started construction.”
Danny Neely, chairman of the housing board, asked Martin what his qualifications were for such an important project as the multi-million-dollar RAD project.
Martin said he was no architect or engineer, but he handled HUD regulation and ran HUD’s emergency response for 20 years.
The resume Martin provided to the housing board did not list any educational background or references. It did state that he served with the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority VI from July of 1990 until retiring in June of 2015.
The Yazoo Herald confirmed that Martin was involved with the maintenance department at the Mississippi Regional Housing Authority VI.
Martin’s resume also stated that he “established the F-Troop, a first responder unit to assist housing authorities experiencing disasters throughout the state of Mississippi.”
The Herald discovered that the F-Troop is a volunteer-based group of maintenance workers who respond to aid housing authorities after natural disasters. The Herald did not find any records as of press time showing Martin “established” the committee.
Payment to Martin has been made twice a month through HA checks. The address listed on the checks to Martin Specialized Services was listed as 1269 Winterview Dr., Jackson, MS.
However, the address provided listed Martin Specialized Services as a transportation service with one truck and one driver.
“I can’t grasp that 22 months of being paid $5,000 a month for predevelopment work…something needs to happen here,” said Herbert Scott Jr., housing authority board member. “I just hope we got our money’s worth of this 22 months of predevelopment work. I really do. Otherwise, something is going on here that you accepted that money.”
Evans-Bass said, as a RAD attorney, she has some concerns over the entire issue.
“(The housing board) has the same concern that I have as one of the attorneys for RAD,” she said. “And that is that Martin has been paid over $100,000 in public funds. What is in writing that verifies what he has done to earn that $100,000? What justifies this $100,000 in public money that has been paid and Martin, who said himself, that for $40,000 he performed no work.”