Kane In Your Corner: Investigation prompts Union City housing changesPosted: Updated:
Changes are underway at the Union City Housing Authority as a result of a Kane In Your Corner investigation that exposed excessive legal fees and questionable bidding practices. The UCHA Board has terminated the contract of attorney Julio Morejon, after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development served them notice they were "in stark violation of HUD requirements."
The decision to terminate Morejon's contract came at a board meeting Monday night. As Kane In Your Corner first reported in April, billing records show he consistently billed the UCHA more than double the $44,000 annual maximum he was allowed under his contract, and board members apparently had no idea it was happening. Minutes show board members repeatedly asked Morejon and Executive Director Virgilio Cabello whether the spending cap was being enforced and they assured the board it was.
Two letters from HUD to the UCHA show just how concerned the feds were about practices at the housing authority. The letters from Sonia Burgos, director of HUD's Office of Public Housing, say Morejon's "contracts are legally flawed and in violation of HUD requirements; further, the procurements of these contracts are highly questionable." Burgos also says "the fees, as billed, are excessive" and adds that the "contract had been routinely awarded to Mr. Morehib (each year) without competitive proposals, which is not permitted" under HUD regulations.
The termination of Morejon's contract could be just the beginning of the changes at the UCHA. HUD has said it is conducting a comprehensive review of contracts and policies. The authority will also be looking for a new executive director. Cabello has announced he will retire as of the end of 2015.