All five members of the Housing Authority board appeared before the city council to address concerns over its board minutes and credit card expenditures.
The public hearing was held in response to the city council’s intention to remove all Housing Authority commissioners who they believe are incapable of serving in their positions.
Alderman Sir Johnathan Rucker, who was the sole opposing vote in the commissioners’ removal, recused himself from Monday’s public hearing.
Mayor Diane Delaware said the city has concerns over the Housing Authority’s failure to provide and record board minutes, the fabrication of a December meeting’s board minutes and credit card discrepancies.
Housing Authority Chairman John Meeks asked the city council to keep the Housing Authority board intact to secure a multi-million project to renovate public housing within Yazoo City.
“There will be $43 million spent for a facelift to all our apartment complexes,” Meeks said. “If we dissolve this board tomorrow, that money will be in limbo. I don’t want to see us have to go back to the bottom and build up. The money may not be there, and investors may back out.”
“We have not indicated any issues with (the RAD project),” Delaware said.
Meeks said he signed the minutes in question from the December 2017 meeting. Six months later, he said those minutes were brought back to his attention following the transfer of $550,000 into the Housing Authority’s affiliate, the Gateway Community Development Corporation.
There are two sets of minutes from the December meeting. One set does not include the board’s approval to transfer the $550,000. However, the other set, which is kept in the record book, does have that approval in the minutes. The minutes kept in the record book are not numbered and photocopied. The originals are not there.
“We voted on it in the December meeting,” Meeks said. “Why bring it back up six months later? I did sign off on the December minutes. The original minutes are somewhere floating. Where? I don’t know.”
Commissioner Dawn Gainwell-Dodd said the December minutes are “accurate.”
“The minutes in question, we did vote on them,” she said. “Those minutes were accurate. There were several people who could have tampered with those minutes, but it wasn’t me.”
Commissioner Danny Neely admits he brought the minutes to the city’s attention.
“When I realized the minutes had been tampered with, I tried to work with the other commissioners,” Neely said. “I tried to keep it quiet. But I am never OK with anyone using my name to commit fraud. I am glad we are having this hearing today. No one tried to investigate but me. These minutes were fabricated. These were not the minutes I voted on.”
Commissioner Mamie Williams said the minutes in the record book were not correct, adding that the board never voted on the transferring of any funds.
“The chairman (Meeks) took fake minutes to the mayor,” Williams said. “The (HA board) is manipulated and controlled. There is a lack of communication, cooperation and integrity. Some board members are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
Neely also said he initiated the investigation into the Housing Authority credit card.
Meeks also said the executive director of the Housing Authority manages the credit card.
“Nothing has been fraudulently spent without a receipt,” Meeks said. “This is the first time of hearing about this.”
Meeks said the Housing Authority has hired a new director following the retirement of Betty Reed, who assumed the leadership role of Gateway. He also said the housing board intends to change the policies involving the credit card.
“This is the first time of me hearing about the credit card discrepancies,” Gainwell-Dodd said. “I have no clue about that.”
Commissioner Richard Griffin also said he had no knowledge of credit card discrepancies.
“I’m here for the citizens of Yazoo City,” Griffin said. “I’m the voice of the people. All this credit card…I have no knowledge of it.”
However, Delaware said the Housing Authority credit card is also in the name of a former director, Barbara Breland, who left the Housing Authority over a decade ago. Records show that Reed’s name is also listed on the American Express credit card.
“There are also names of individuals who received airline tickets who are not Housing Authority employees or members of the Housing Authority board,” Delaware said.
Neely added that charges were also applied on the Housing Authority credit card to upgrade airline seats to first class.
Williams said she did take a family member with her to a housing conference. But she said reimbursed that airline ticket upon her return. Receipts showed that she did pay the Housing Authority immediately following those conferences.
Gainwell-Dodd said she also had receipts to show she reimbursed the Housing Authority.
The city council took no action following the public hearing.