Personal loan uncovered in housing agency probe

October 29, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

The executive director of a Baltimore nonprofit housing corporation that is being investigated for questionable expenses took out thousands of dollars in personal loans, city housing officials say.

Housing Assistance Corp. Director Jennifer Jones-Williams lent herself an amount far exceeding the $500 limit allowed by the group, which develops and manages homes for the poor, said city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

To repay the loan, she has been deducting $200 each month from her salary. Ms. Jones-Williams has offered to repay the outstanding $4,868 balance, Mr. Henson said.

The loan surfaced in an investigation by city housing officials into the organization's suspected misuse of money. The housing department suspended funds to HAC two weeks ago, after a preliminary audit turned up some unusual expenditures.

HAC responded this week with a detailed report countering allegations that high-ranking officials bought meals, a computer and other supplies at the nonprofit's expense.

"Right now, the responses we have received from HAC appear to be credible in every instance," Mr. Henson said yesterday. But he warned that the audit would continue and said the city would not reinstate funds until fully satisfied with the findings. "I don't consider this to be a closed case," he said.

Created in 1980, HAC manages and develops properties in some of the city's most run-down neighborhoods, using funds from local, state, federal and private sources.

Last week, housing officials received an anonymous packet of HAC invoices and canceled checks. The packet -- a copy of which also was given to The Sun and other city officials -- appeared to indicate that high-ranking employees took out personal loans and purchased 25th wedding anniversary invitations, a 1988 truck and a computer.

Ms. Jones-Williams, who could not be reached for comment, bought the $1,440 computer at a discount from Minneapolis-based Damark Co. She used the computer to work at home while on maternity leave from May through July and has returned it to HAC's headquarters, Mr. Henson said.

The nonprofit also provided documents that show an employee paid for the used truck and that the other items were legitimate business expenses. Mr. Henson was unsure about the wedding invitations.

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