Open Government Project
A Government Watchdog Group
State of Texas
City of Galveston
Public Interest Groups
Is it Really
by David Stanowski
25 July 2011
What is the relationship between the Galveston Housing Authority and the City Council?
When the GHA needs the City Council's help, or wants it to allocate money for its benefit, Commissioners and staff members refer to the "partnership" between the City and the GHA. The pretense that the GHA acts like the City's "partner" was recently exposed in our article, "Are You Really a Partner?".
Of course, when the GHA doesn't like what their "partner" is doing, they squirm and complain about the minimal oversight that it is attempting to provide. This side of the "partnership" was demonstrated in a recent City Council meeting when the GHA Vice-Chairman said, "Give me MY $25 million!"
State law creates an inactive housing authority in every city and county in the state. It is up to each city and county to "activate" their housing authority, if they choose to do so.
The City of Galveston's Commissioners activated the City's housing authority in May 1940, making it an agency of the City, subject to oversight by the City's elected representatives. However, the GHA has recently bristled at the concept of City Council oversight, demanding ORRs for all documents requested by the Council to perform their oversight responsibility, and publishing a guest column stating that, "A suggestion recently was made that the housing authority is an agency of the city. This is not the case; under applicable law, the GHA is an independent governmental body operating within the city of Galveston."
The new City auditor recently sent the Council an email reminding them of their responsibility under federal law to provide strict oversight of expenditures of federal funds by its sub-recipients (including the GHA) which would seem to refute the notion of independence.
You see how confusing it is, the GHA declares itself to be a partner or an independent governmental body depending on what suits its purposes at the time!
Whether the GHA is independent or subject to strict oversight will be tested, once again, this Thursday at the City Council meeting. They have about $30 million in their bank accounts, but allege the inability to use it for "soft costs", as they desire. They want City Council to re-characterize the nature of a portion of the $25 million set aside for "hard costs" in Round One.
The GHA believes that the $25 million is "their money", as expressed by Vice-Chairman Dennis when he refers to it as "MY MONEY". However, another portion of the following short video montage shows Sterling Patrick confirming, in a different meeting, that with a contract ammendment, it could be used for other purposes, such as assistance for private-home rebuilding. Mr. Patrick's remarks seem to challenge the notion that it is "their money".
As you watch the video, you will see talk of a partnership with the City, but do you see them acting like partners, or simply making demands? Why should this Council give them any of this money for "soft costs"?