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January 16, 2024, Meeting Minutes

Tuesday, January 16, 2024 8:00 AM

Tranquil Terrace
845 Swoope Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Commissioners Present: Board Chair; Hal George, Commissioner Tammie Holiday, Commissioner Bob Klettner, and Commissioner Karen Jacobs.
Commissioners Virtual: Commissioner Dawn Ofodile and Vice-Chair Kenneth Goodwin
WPHA Staff Present: LaShanda Lovette, Executive Director, Amaris Hunt, Executive Assistant, Tarena Grant, Resource Coordinator, Melissa Martinez, Accountant and Sherry Sutphen, Attorney.
NDC Staff Present: James Allen
NDC Staff via Phone: Rick Elwood
NDC Staff Absent: Cindy Wilson
Guests: Jeff Briggs, City Liaison

  1. Call to Order
    Chair George called the meeting to order at 8:07 am. and announced a quorum.

  2. Public Comment
    There was no public comment brought before the board.

  3. Consent Items

    1. Approval of December Minutes
      Commissioner Klettner moved to approve the December 2023 Board meeting minutes.
      Commissioner Holiday provided a second. The motion was accepted without further discussion.

  4. Actions Items

    1. Approval of Resolutions - No.01162024A-Valley Bank Revised Public Entity
      • ED Lovette explained that the previous form was revised to include NDC signers in the document. There were no other changes. Commissioner Klettner moved to approve the resolution. Commissioner Jacobs provided a second. The motion was accepted unanimously.

  5. Executive Director - Discussion and/or Direction

    • How to evaluate/interview a co-developer-Discussion led by Jeffrey Briggs-Director of Planning & Transportation with the City of Winter Park

      • Mr. Briggs briefly explained why a developer is needed at the housing authority. He went on to explain the process of how submissions are reviewed and presented to the board. He explained that after everyone on the evaluation committee reviewed the submissions, they recommended that the board move forward with interviewing TedC and Invictus Development based on how they ranked with scoring. He asked that the board accept the committee's recommendation. Commissioner Klettner asked what would happen If they did not like what the developer suggested. Mr. Briggs clarified by stating for example, if the firm selected provides a contract the board didn't like because of the financial terms, then the board can reject the first firm and go on to negotiate with the second firm. Otherwise, if the firm you selected brought\ the board a project that they don't like, the board would simply reject it and go back to the drawing board. Commissioner Jacobs asked if both contractors are Florida-based. Mr. Briggs confirmed that they are. Commissioner Klettner moved to approve a motion to allow ED Lovette to contact the two candidates recommended by the evaluation committee to present to the board at a separate meeting. Commissioner Jacobs seconded the motion. It was approved unanimously.

        Mr. Briggs then went on to do a coin flip to select what order the developers would present to the board. TedC was identified as heads and Invictus Development as tails. After the coin flip, it was determined that Invictus would present first.

    • Transition of Financial Institution

      • ED Lovette explained that the Valley Bank accounts were funded and the remaining funds would be wired on 1.16.24. Two accounts remain open: The Section 8 funding account and the HUD subsidy account. These two accounts will be closed once they are connected to the Valley bank account.

    • Possible Check Fraud

      • ED Lovette explained that she began communicating with everyone in mid-December about possible check fraud from a former employee. It was brought to her attention by our accountant, Melissa Martinez. A security deposit check was returned to one of the properties and was found to have been deposited into the personal bank account of the former employee, Laneshia Church. She went on to explain that upon this finding, we proceeded to do a preliminary in-house analysis of pulling all security deposit checks that had been written during her time of employment. It was determined at that time that there were possibly 16 checks that had been compromised. She confirmed she immediately reached out to legal counsel and the board chair, Hal George, where she was given the directive to go to the police and file a report. She confirmed she also reached out to North-South Law Group to do an in-depth analysis.

        Their initial report shows what they were able to uncover to see how many checks were possibly compromised. They were able to identify a total of 15 checks that were possibly compromised as well as two bank accounts, Tuscany and the Plymouth. They have asked us to provide them with a check register for the length of Ms. Church's employment, so they can confirm if there are any additional checks or bank accounts that may have been compromised. Commissioner Ofodile asked if the incident is separate from the attempt made to embezzle $250k. ED Lovette confirmed that at this time there is no connection between the two incidents. She also confirmed that Winter Park PD's detective stated a subpoena has been issued to the banks and they have 30 days to respond. Chair George asked what the timeframe was for the first set of compromised checks. ED Lovette confirmed it was May of 2022 and the last check was June of 2023, totaling about $7,100. Chair George then went on the ask when we became aware of the attempted fraud. Ms. Martinez explained that mail was brought into the office and an envelope was labeled as undeliverable. Upon further inspection, she realized the envelope had been opened and the check inside of it was endorsed with a tenant's name. It didn't sit well with her, so she looked up the check number to see if it had been cashed. In doing so, the signature looked odd, so she continued to dig until she was able to see that the Paycor account that the employee in question received her checks, matched the account that the security deposit had been deposited into. Commissioner Jacobs asked if any tenants had ever called and complained about not receiving their security deposit back. Both Ms. Martinez and Ms. Hunt stated they had received calls, but never for a check that had already been cashed. Ms. Martinez stated that she had to recut checks, but always verified they hadn't been cashed yet. She'd simply void the previous check and issue a new one. Vice-chair Goodwin asked if Ms. Church had any record of such activity in previous employment history ED Lovette confirmed there was none. Commissioner Jacobs asked that ED Lovette share the contact for the detective with City Liaison, Jeff Briggs, as he has a relationship with Winter Park PD. ED Lovette confirmed she would and that the investigation is still ongoing. The detective handling the case is OFC Ronald Brent Budde.

    • External Audit - Last Year and Upcoming
      • ED Lovette thought it would be beneficial to review last year's findings and talk about the things put in place to avoid those in the upcoming audit. She went on to give a brief recap and asked Ms. Martinez to update the board on changes that were made. Ms. Martinez gave a brief recap on how the bank reconciliation procedure has changed. Chair George asked if NDC is following the same procedure. Mr. Allen confirmed they are.

        The second deficiency identified during the audit was the use of debit and credit cards. ED Lovette explained that all debit cards were canceled and that Ms. Hunt has taken over reconciling the credit card statement and receipts monthly. She went on to explain that reimbursements notated had been completed and a new allocation was put in place, to ensure that items that were not to be charged to public housing, were charged to the correct property and accounts.

        The third deficiency identified was large adjustments made to tenant accounts receivable. Ms. Martinez called the board's attention to a handout that shows the journal entries made and the delinquent and prepaid amounts. She gave a brief description of the process and showed how and why the adjustment as made. She also touched on the error in Realpage with Subledgers and why such adjustments were needed.

        Lastly, the final finding was about the loss of internal controls over payments on procurement. Our auditor stated that bills were not reconciled during 2022 to procurement and that the invoices provided did not agree with the contract itself. ED Lovette explained this finding is her only area of concern due to the human element, as only Ms. Church, Ms. Hunt, and herself were reviewing purchase orders as they were received. She went on to explain that we are doing a full audit of the procurement files to ensure invoices match what the contract pricing states.

        Chair George asked that ED Lovette explain to Commissioner Klettner what a finding means during the fiscal audit. ED Lovette explained that a finding essentially says we have not upheld a regulation as required by HUD. This gives us an opportunity for improvement in that area and to make changes as an organization.

    • Tuscany Balcony Project

      • ED Lovette explained that the Tuscany Balcony Project is complete. We now have a certificate of completion and the final invoice. We are in the process of closing out the grant with Orange County.
        Commissioner Jacobs asked for an update on Organic Growth at Tuscany. Mr. Allen explained they are looking to downsize units. They are currently in the process of determining how many units the property can survive without but continue to pay its overhead costs. This would be more cost-effective than spending $12k- $16k to remediate units when we are potentially going to work with a co-developer to update the property.

    • ED Evaluation Process

      • Attorney Sherry Sutphen explained the instructions she shared with the board regarding the director evaluation. She went on to explain how to complete the packet and return it to her office. Commissioner Klettner asked what the process is after all packets have been turned in. Attorney Sutphen explained the point range and how this affects the possible merit increase. ED Lovette requested that Attorney Sutphen be present during the review process and Commissioner Jacobs agreed this would be helpful. Discussions were then had on what date would work best for the review. Commissioner Jacobs motioned for ED Lovette's review to take place on February 15th at 8 AM. Commissioner Holiday provided a second. The motion was accepted unanimously. ED Lovette requested that as the board completes their evaluation packets, they provide examples of how she may have missed the mark or how she can improve.

    • Financials

      • ED Lovette explained the financials reflected are for the month ending November 30th, 2023. The numbers reflected are during the month of transition. NDC is confirmed to be presenting financials going forward. Commissioner Jacobs requested that ED Lovette provide a report to the board with 2023 WPHA employee salaries, including property managers from 9/1/2022 to 10/1/2023, including any merit increases that may have been received.

  6. ROSS Report

    Mrs. Grant explained that we were in our busy season. She gave kudos to Vystar for their generous donation of $1K that went to support WPHA residents. We were able to sponsor a Fresh Stop Bus event at Winter Park Oaks, serving over 40 households and 94 individuals. The remaining funds will be used to support our other communities with a Second Harvest Food Pantry. She gave a special thank you to our many partners who contributed to our residents during the Christmas Holiday, St. Margaret Mary and St. John Lutheran. As well as Our Adopt-a-Family Sponsors - Women's Club of WP, Garrett Law Firm, Kona Ice, Fannie Hillman & Associates, WP Police & Fire Department, WPHA Board of Commissioners and Commissioner Sullivan. Our residents at Tranquil kicked off their Holiday Extravaganza with Winter Park NCF facilitating a Holiday Bingo filled with holiday gifts to receive. We also had a chance to host a Holiday Christmas Party for our residents with a catered meal from Bubbalous BBQ. We concluded the day with a generous donation from WPPD of canned goods and household items to support our food pantries.

    She also explained that she submitted our ROSS reporting to HUD. We are at a total of 50 households between the Meadows and Tranquil Terrace, which is the required minimum.

  7. NDC Report - Property Overview

    Mr. Allen explained that we are at 90% occupancy or higher at each property, except Tuscany at Aloma. He went on to explain the struggle with getting applicants approved and units ready for move-in. He stated it is a challenge to get applicants who qualify and can afford the rent in the 80% units. He explained they are in the process of doing a market survey on comparable rents. But can foresee discounting rents in the future to fill units. He explained they are seeing similar at The Plymouth, but for different reasons. Since it is an elderly community and they are on fixed incomes.

  8. Sunshine Law/Roles of the Executive Director and Board - Discussion led by Sherry Sutphen Attorney with Roper, P.A.

    Attorney Sutphen gave a refresher to the board on what the Sunshine Law is and how the board can follow the Sunshine Law, as it pertains to emails, meetings, and communications with one another as it relates to housing authority business.
    She went on to explain the role of the board versus the Executive Director. She ended by stating that it is important to understand that the Executive Director carries out the objectives and directives of the board. There was no further discussion.

  9. Commissioner's Report

    Commissioner Goodwin
    Commissioner Goodwin gave a brief synopsis of his experience at the Commissioners' conference in San Diego. While he felt the information was not as useful at this conference, he looks forward to what upcoming conferences may bring.

    Commissioner Jacobs
    Commissioner Jacobs asked about the new business cards they received and if the email address was something they needed to log into. Ms. Hunt explained it is just an alias and all messages are sent directly to their email addresses. They are not housed or saved on a separate server. The aliases were created to give a uniform appearance and to avoid putting their personal emails on the Housing Authority business cards.

    She also asked for an update on the resident at Tuscany that had their ceiling collapse. Mr. Allen apologized for the oversight and gave an update on the resident, stating that they are now back in their unit and repairs have been made.

    Lastly, she asked for an update on the investigation into the letter received at the January Board meeting. Attorney Sutphen explained that she would try to give a preliminary report before the Director's evaluation.

  10. Adjournment

With there being no further business to come before the board, Commissioner Jacobs motioned to adjourn, and Commissioner Holiday provided a second. Chair George called adjournment at 10:36 AM.