HHA meeting: Special counsel investigation expansion tabled as HUD stalls investigation

HUD letter places special counsel Hoboken Housing Authority investigation in limbo

Last night’s special Hoboken Housing Authority meeting at City Hall saw the one resolution on tap tabled with the late afternoon arrival of a HUD letter from its Newark office calling the special counsel investigation’s authorization outside its procurement policy.

The HUD letter rejects approval of the special counsel authorization by its board saying there are “protest procedures,” remedies available to be exhausted before appealing outside of the Hoboken Housing Authority and there’s no indication presented such “protest procedures” within the HHA exist.

The action comes with the late day arrival of a letter signed by a Newark based HUD administrator, Director Sonia Burgos declaring the special counsel approval outside of procurement bid policies stating, “Noncompetitive procurement is permitted only in limited circumstances.”

The special counsel selection in this instance was managed on a RFP exception basis by HHA Chairwoman Dana Wefer. Alternatively, how a RFP procurement selection of a special counsel with Garcia’s previous claims to sole appointing powers would be assigned considering his personal conflict on the issue would take place is unclear.

HHA Executive Director Garcia has previously pointed to his uniquely opulent contract that he is the “sole appointing authority,” so any service procured in the agency, in this case a special counsel should be, in theory, chosen by him through an RFP process. However, the legality surrounding those powers being surrendered by the HHA Board of Commissioners in the contract is also in question.

Also unclear is how HUD invalidated the special counsel authorization for $30,000, twice approved by the HHA Board of Commissioners while overlooking millions of dollars in expenditures by vendors outside of ANY federal procurement process under Garcia in the HHA. 

Some of those same non-approved or contracted vendors outside of the HUD procurement process gave thousands of dollars to Garcia’s political committee last March.

Weeks ago, Garcia’s attorney Louis Zayas said he welcomed an investigation into his client but preceding the vote for an appointment of a special counsel at the last regularly scheduled HHA meeting, Carmelo Garcia attempted to dissuade the HHA Board of Commissioners from reaffirming authorization saying HUD did not want them to do so. He offered no documentation to support that claim.

Now the HUD letter arrives weeks after the board approvals and the work of special counsel Joseph Manfredi of Manfredi & Associates was underway and the HUD action means any payment for services rendered is in limbo.

There’s been no additional special counsel findings reported on problems within the agency but the recent check fiasco where PNC Bank refused to honor hundreds of agency checks when the simple signature approval for the new chair was stalled raises concern what other problems loom ahead for the HHA.

MSV did not attend the brief HHA meeting last night.

HHA Executive Director Carmelo Garcia just saw a special counsel investigation into the verified millions of dollars in procurement to vendors declared outside of federal procurement guidelines by a HUD intervention. In a letter, HUD administrator Sonia Burgos declared the HHA board’s authorization of a special counsel to investigate the matter failed its procurement policy overlooking millions in contracts Garcia issued outside of the same policy. 

Talking Ed Note: Problems, sabotage, cover-up: something is rotten in Denmark.

Related: The May exclusive MSV story: “Carmelo Garcia pocketed money from at least two firms doing business in the Hoboken Housing Authority.”

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