JoAnn Davis, the indicted director of the Chatham County Housing Authority, has been placed on administrative leave by her board.
Housing Authority board attorney Brian Crawford told the News + Record last Tuesday afternoon that the board met in a specially called meeting to address the federal indictment against Davis, and determined that “the serious allegations against Ms. Davis warranted that Ms. Davis be placed on administrative leave, without pay, pending the adjudication of the matter in the court system.”
Crawford said that since Davis is the Authority’s “sole employee,” board members are increasing their involvement until an interim director is found.
Crawford, a partner with Michael Best & Friedrich in Durham, said the board is taking steps to ensure “all systems are operating normally and that there has been no financial impact to the Authority. HUD has offered support to ensure that our clients and their services are continuing as designed. In addition, HUD has offered to work closely with the Authority in the interim.”
The CCHA office, located in Siler City, is operating on a “by appointment only” schedule. County Manager Dan LaMontagne told the News + Record the county continues communicating with the Authority “to ensure that the Section 8 voucher program continues to function, which it is.”
The News + Record has for the last two weeks requested copies of CCHA board minutes and other information from board members and from Crawford. Crawford has not responded otherwise to detailed written questions about Davis, CCHA operations or the indictment. Board members who have spoken to the News + Record have referred questions to Crawford. HUD staff in Greensboro asked for questions in writing more than a week ago but have since not responded to requests for additional information or comment.
Davis, who has run CCHA since July 2012, is accused of using her position to fraudulently award contracts for services — including housing inspections, staff training and client workshops — to friends and family members (see the full timeline on chathamnewsrecord.com). In return, the federal government says Davis received “kickbacks” from those friends and family members — allowing them to keep small percentages of the payments after they returned most of the cash to her — even though the services were never performed for the housing authority.
Four other people — Clintess Roberta Barrett-Johnson, Mi’chelle Necole Bell-Johnson, Robert Johnson Jr. and Candace Agatha Brunson-Poole — were also named as family members and friends in the indictment and arrested.
Davis, Barrett-Johnson and Brunson-Poole are former employees of the Durham Housing Authority.
Davis pleaded not guilty two weeks ago to charges of wire fraud, identity theft and obstruction. She made the plea during her arraignment at the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina Court in Durham. She was arrested the previous Friday, Feb. 24, after being named in a 19-count federal indictment filed on Feb. 13.
The Chatham County Housing Authority oversees the distribution of federal funds to help qualified low-income residents with their rental payments. The authority also works with some families in the rental subsidy program to develop five-year plans to become fiscally self-sufficient and help others in the program become homeowners through subsidized mortgages, according to the CCHA website.
Crawford did not specify in a message to the News + Record when the board’s called meeting was held. The CCHA board’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, March 21, which occurred after press time.