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2012-02-16

2012-02-16

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Published by mhuber

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Published by: mhuber on Feb 17, 2012
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02/17/2012

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February 16, 2012
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable Shaun DonovanSecretaryU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development451 7th Street S.W.Washington, DC 20410Dear Secretary Donovan:I write to you today regarding yet another public housing authority that has come underscrutiny. As you are aware, over the past few years I have been investigating public housingauthorities from Los Angeles to Chelsea, Massachusetts for poor living conditions, exorbitantsalaries paid to executive staff, conflicts of interest and outright fraud, waste and abuse of 
taxpayers’ money.
I recently read an article in the Albany
Times Union
detailing the ever growing problemsat the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority (SSHA).
1
SSHA manages 377 federally subsidizedhousing units and receives nearly $796,000 of federal funds. The executive director of theSSHA, Ed Spychalski, initially came
to the public’s attention
for failing to address a bed buginfestation at a SSHA property. As more details of SSHA management emerged, other problemshave come to light. According to the
Times Union
, Ed Spychalski earns an annual salary of nearly $152,000 and has received raises that more than doubled his salary between 2006 and2011. Further, it has been reported that Mr. Spychalski hired his daughter as a housing assistantat the SSHA. HUD prohibits the hiring of family members without a waiver and according torecords the SSHA Board of Directors did not approve one.While Mr. Spychalski
’s salary
was doubling year after year, his Board of Directors wasapparently not providing much oversight. Instead, members of the Board and Mr. Spychalskireportedly
flew around the country on the taxpayer’s
dime. The
Times Union
reported that Mr.
Spychalski and Board chairman Dennis Brunelle charged taxpayers’ for trips to Las Vegas, New
Orleans and Florida. They reportedly billed SSHA nearly $32,000 in 2011 and approximately
1
 
Dennis Yusko; “Saratoga Springs housing authority oversight debated”;
Times Union.
 
 
The Honorable Shaun DonovanFebruary 16, 2012Page 2 of 3
$25,000 in 2010 for travel, lodging and training costs.
2
Currently, some SSHA residents arecalling for the resignation of all five members of the SSHA Board of Directors and the director.In addition to excessive salaries and wasteful travel, the SSHA also revealed that, until last week,it had been paying a public relations firm $175-an-hour to handle press inquiries.The lack of oversight of this housing authority and others around the country is alarming.
I continue to be troubled regarding the local housing authority’s position and HUD’s
position on
who “is in charge.” According to S
SHA board member Eric Weller, the SSHA answers to the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Further, Mr. Weller was quoted by the
Times Union
 
saying, “It’s HUD that audits us every year, HUD that sets the rules and HUD towhich we must answer.”
Secretary Donovan, I have written numerous letters to you regarding these widespreadproblems. I hope that HUD believes that it bears responsibility in these problems and has a dutyto take action to correct them. These issues need to be resolved immediately. I will continue topush for greater transparency of executive compensation at housing authorities across thecountry because I have found that it
does not matter if it’s a large city like Philadelphia or a
smaller city like Chelsea. These problems are rampant.Once again, this is yet another housing authority that appears to have abused the
taxpayers’ trust. As I believe that the public’s busin
ess ought to be public, I am requesting thefollowing documents from 2004 to the present:1)
 
Please explain in detail HUD’s
oversight role with the SSHA.2)
 
Provide a copy of Mr. Spychalski’s most recent employment contract and all financial
statements filed by the SSHA to HUD, including any statements made about executivedirector salary and all benefits.3)
 
Provide all documents relating to stimulus funds provided to the SSHA and how thefunding was used.4)
 
Provide all documents relating to all conflict of interest waivers filed by the SSHA andBoard of Directors with HUD.5)
 
Provide the names of all nonprofit affiliates with ties to the SSHA. Please include thenames of all officers and their salary/benefit packages.6)
 
Please document all legal bills, as well as consulting and professional services bills paidby the SSHA.7)
 
Provide all travel records for employees of SSHA and the Board of Directors.
2
 
Dennis Yusko; “Records detail Saratoga Springs
 
Housing Authority’s travel tab”;
Times Union.

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