Housing official on leave
He helped steer $825,000 in federal money to a friend
A city of Dallas housing official who helped steer $825,000 in federal funds to a friend has been placed on leave, a city spokeswoman said Tuesday. The city has launched an internal investigation and put Carl Wagner on paid leave pending the outcome, spokeswoman Monica Cordova said.
The moves came after The Dallas
Morning News reported that Wagner had a personal and business relationship with a homebuilder who had a spotty business history but was nevertheless given city contracts to rebuild eight houses for lowincome families in 2015.
A basic background check would have revealed that the builder, Kenneth Williams, had misstated his financial history and had been barred from doing similar work in Fort Worth.
The News found that the houses Williams’ company built for older and disabled Dallas residents were riddled with problems.
Wagner, who helped manage that housing program, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Williams previ-
ously told The News that he had done the best he could within the city’s budget.
Meanwhile, City Council members said they were troubled by what The News found and said the city’s vetting process for contractors has been under review. Federal officials have been investigating the housing department.
The News found that Wagner and Williams, both 58, had been childhood friends in Fort Worth and had done business together since the late 1980s.
They had previously worked together in Fort Worth. When Wagner was a city employee there, records show, Williams got hundreds of thousands of dollars in city business. But a legal dispute ensued, and Williams agreed to never again seek federal funds through Fort Worth’s housing department.
It’s unclear whether the city of Dallas knew of the Fort Worth troubles when Williams applied to work here.
Dallas also overlooked red flags in Williams’ application. For example, Williams claimed he had never filed for bankruptcy. Federal court records show he had.
Williams also had to get training on how to work safely with lead paint. He did, his application shows — from a side business that Wagner ran.
Presented with The News’ findings two weeks ago, city officials would not say whether they knew of the men’s relationship or the problems in Williams’ past.
Council members emphasized this week that the city — and the housing department — are under new leadership.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax, the top boss at City Hall, has been on the job for about a year. The housing director, David Noguera, and the chief that oversees his department, Raquel Favela, came on board last summer.
“We’re righting the ship,” said council member Kevin Felder, who was elected last year. “I have every confidence in T.C. Broadnax and David Noguera to get this right.”
Felder, who sits on the council’s housing committee, said the city needs to correct how it selects contractors. City officials are developing a comprehensive housing policy, which he said should address this issue.
“We have to be a little bit more judicious with regard to the type of people we select,” he said.
Fellow council member Scott Griggs, who also sits on the housing committee, said the housing department under old management was “rife with corruption.” He said he was confident that Broadnax would fix any remaining problems.
“This is why so many of us wanted change,” Griggs said.