South Bend Housing Authority chief resigns
Marva Leonard-Dent (South Bend Tribune photo) (April 13, 2012)
It comes as the agency’s board continues to look for answers to a series of allegations about the Housing Authority’s operations. The board and Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s office have yet to hear a response to their request, sent in late February, for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to “conduct a full audit and investigation.”
When asked if the board asked her to resign, she said no. Nor, she said, did it have anything to do with the allegations.
“I’m leaving because I want to,” Leonard-Dent, 54, said today as she worked from her home. “I want to do something else.”
She said she informed her staff Thursday and informed the board verbally in the past week.
The Housing Authority board will meet in closed session at 5:30 p.m. today, then in public meeting at 501 Alonzo Watson Dr., apparently to accept her resignation.
It is now the board’s responsibility to hire a new director and, until then, to name an interim director.
In the board’s and mayor’s letter to HUD, they wrote that there have been allegations that contracts have been improperly awarded and monitored and that money has been misspent.
But there also were allegations of sexual harassment against Housing Authority managers, including at least one against Leonard-Dent, by people who’ve worked at the agency.
At least two of the cases have been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Indianapolis, said attorney Andrew Straw, who’s representing some of the complainants. So far, the EEOC hasn’t announced whether or not it has found any basis to the claims.
“I’m comfortable that the allegations are not true,” Leonard-Dent said of the allegations in general.
“I don’t know all of what they’ve been hearing,” she said of the board. “From whatever I did hear, I know they were not true.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she added.
Asked if HUD would find any irregularities if it did do an audit, she said, “I think they would find that we’re OK, that we’re doing a good job.”
She said that HUD already audits the Housing Authority regularly and doesn’t think HUD would find anything more than “a few things that could be tweaked.”
The Housing Authority owns and runs 812 housing units in a range of complexes and homes, and it oversees 2,124 Section 8 housingvouchers that are used to pay for rent in private apartments.
Leonard-Dent feels she’s leaving the agency in good shape.
“I was born and raised here, I love South Bend, but I also have other interests,” she said, noting that she has both a real estate and a lawyer’s license and would like to return to that work. “It was always my passion to be a lawyer in the first place.”
Her resignation also means she’s stepping away from roles on statewide and national housing boards, including board president of the Indiana chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.
Staff writer Joseph Dits: