Finnegan: SHA needs to look at their own actions

Finnegan: SHA needs to look at their own actions

It should come as no surprise that Scituate’s only public housing complex is in a financial crisis. That is the same condition that I and other board members walked into when we were appointed by the prior Town Council to volunteer our time to help straighten out the mess.

Unfortunately, not only were needed files kept off site, the Connecticut-based management company, headed by Pauline Galbreath, after repeated requests, failed to turn over budgets, checking account information, and other necessary material that the Scituate Housing Authority needed to comply with federal guidelines. Her repeated failures and inability to cooperate with the new board ultimately led to her resignation.

In spite of these internal shortcomings, the board and I were proud to serve. We cut the liability insurance costs from $16,000 to $4,000 in an effort to save money to help restore and renovate a complex that had not been touched in 25 years. Through a $100,000 grant from RISE, we were able to insulate the entire project, replace all the lights with energy efficient bulbs, replaced nearly every refrigerator in the complex and provide new washers and dryers at a cost of zero dollars to the tenants and the taxpayers. Rooms were painted, carpets replaced, and the main door was automated using money from the reserve account with the approval of the necessary regulating agency.

We also discovered past questionable expenditures like $1,500 payments the board members as “housing consultants” re-bid the fuel oil contract that had been given to a sitting councilman, and re-established the drinking water supply as a public supply to ensure safe standards and monthly testing as recommended by the Department of Health. While making progress on these fronts, including inquiries into refinancing a 50-year mortgage that carried a 10 percent interest rate, a majority of the members were removed by the new council majority. I and other members are now suing to get our jobs back before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Interestingly, the first job awarded by the “new” board was to return the same person who resigned as the resident manager even though at least 18 occupants of the 24-unit complex signed a petition against her re-hire. So much for listening to the concerns of the residents.

Most disturbing, the new board voted for a contract that they did not have in front of them.

So, when they claim a financial crisis, the SHA needs to look no further than their own actions.

Richard Finnegan