Grand jury offers harsh critique on Richmond Housing Authority

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A Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury report has echoed a media investigation’s findings that the Richmond Housing Authority is plagued by dysfunction and mismanagement and recommends numerous corrective steps.

In a 15-page report you can read here, the 19-member grand jury found that RHA management has failed to adequately monitor or train their employees or communicate standards, and with the added burden of error-prone record-keeping the lapses have resulted in poor conditions in buildings and inspired equally poor customer service.

The grand jury recognized the RHA staff has been overwhelmed due to federal funding cuts that have reduced its staff from 65 to 25.

But management, according to the all-citizen jury, needs to do more to ensure the basic needs of tenants and properties are met.

Currently employees don’t receive regular performance reviews, which means low-performing staffers are “seldom reprimanded or disciplined,” the report states.

Some employees work irregular hours, a violation of their union contract, and “almost half” of employee timesheets are turned in late, the report said.

A lack of training in recordkeeping was also criticized, as errors in RHA data can affect tenants’ eligibility to be accepted for vouchers and recertification.

While Executive Director Tim Jones is credited for “being good on technical and data-driven work, he is criticized as being weak on employee relations and not having ‘an open-door policy,” according to the report.

Jones doesn’t hold regular meetings with staff or resident councils, and has held only four “all hands” staff meetings since he was hired a decade ago, the grand jury says.

The grand jury made a number of recommendations, including hiring an experienced front-line manager to supervise employees. It also recommends the executive director and staff work in the same location (except for the finance department). Increasing employee trainings and performance evaluations were also suggested.

Jones responded to the recommendations by telling the Contra Costa Times he appreciates the assessment.

“This information will assist in our endeavors toward continued improvement in service delivery and personnel management,” he said.

The grand jury is the latest watchdog group to investigate the housing authority since the Center for Investigative Reporting documented squalid conditions at the Hacienda, one of RHA’s five buildings, along with examples of mismanagement and misuse of funds.

The CIR reports preceded investigations by police and the FBI into a former RHA maintenance department head.

The media investigation also convinced Richmond City Council to relocate tenants from the so-called “uninhabitable” Hacienda, an ongoing process that has also been criticized as poorly managed.

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