Legal Group Hits Housing Authority With Grievance Petition

Michael A. Smith. Galveston Daily News. February 6, 1997. pA-1

Galveston-The Gulf Coast Legal Foundation has filed a class action grievance petition with Galveston Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners claiming GHA staff is violating its own and federal policies.

The petition seeks, among other things, refunds of late charges and trash fines GCLF claims were illegally and improperly collected from current and past GHA public housing tenants.

It also asks the GHA board to identify “all former residents evicted solely as a consequence of violating the late-charge and trash-fine policies and place them at the top of the waiting list.”

Attorney Stephen McIntyre said the petition is an attempt to persuade GHA commissioners to take seven steps toward correcting a history of improper and illegal acts.

“This is not a lawsuit, it’s just an attempt to get GHA to the table to talk about correcting the problem,” he said.

He also indicated a lawsuit might follow if an agreement can’t be reached.

The petition was delivered to GHA Chairman Marc Cuenod Monday, McIntyre said. Neither Cuenod nor GHA Deputy Director Ellen-Elizabeth Scarlett returned phone calls Wednesday.

McIntyre said staff members at all GHA projects violated U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations and GHA policies by the way they collected trash fines.

“They are supposed to inspect in the morning, and if they find trash they are supposed to leave a notice and re-inspect at 1:15 p.m. the next day,” McIntyre said. “Instead, they would come back the next morning or a few hours later and charge the tenant a fine.”

He also said that GHA’s late-charge practices are illegal.

“The late-charge is supposed to compensate for expenses incurred by the landlord (GHA) because they rent payment was late,” McIntyre said. “They cannot be used as punishment.”

He said GHA’s late-charge procedures are designed and acknowledged to be punitive.

McIntyre said the petition springs from successful grievances filed by his client, GHA resident Barbara Bailey.