Hous­ing of­fi­cial on leave

He helped steer $825,000 in fed­eral money to a friend

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - By SARAH MERVOSH and SUE AM­BROSE Staff Writ­ers

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.


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