In Focus

Harris County Housing Authority fires CEO over allegations of mismanagement

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The head of the Harris County Housing Authority has been fired amid allegations of mismanagement and poor oversight. But he didn't leave empty handed.

Saying it was time to move on, a county agency dumped its CEO Wednesday. The Housing Authority is supposed to build affordable housing, but seems to have spent thousands on extras.

Guy Rankin was all smiles walking into his board room to fight for his job on Wednesday, but he was nowhere to be found three hours later.

Rankin, the longtime CEO of HCHA, was fired Wednesday amidst allegations of mismanagement and wasteful spending. The county authority did give him $137,000 of your dollars to walk away though.

"The vote is unanimous. We thank Mr. Rankin for his service," said HCHA Chairman Beto Cardenas.

The Housing Authority is supposed to develop housing for needy citizens and veterans in Harris County. But several county commissioners and County Judge Ed Emmett were apparently fed up with irregularities at the authority.

"He was clearly very uncomfortable with how they were spending money. I think a lot of people were uncomfortable with how they were spending money. Much of the money that was spent on things such as art, consulting contracts, T-shirts, that sort of thing, the judges felt could have been much better spent on the actual mission itself, which is housing," said Joe Stinebaker, spokesperson for Judge Emmett.

In a report to the board before his firing, Rankin said the Housing Authority was audited dozens of times without complaint and was highly rated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But after a county attorney's report raised questions about truck purchases and curious employee bonuses, and a newspaper investigation revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending on art, parties and contracts, HUD announced it will return to look at HCHA again.

All that as the authority tries to recover, find a new CEO and continue helping the needy.

"The folks who lose money when a governmental agency spends money unwisely is the taxpayers themselves and the folks who should have received the services," Stinebaker said.

The authority named a new interim CEO on Wednesday. In addition to cleaning up spending and questioning questionable contracts, he lands in a job facing a $2 million budget shortfall with just a few weeks to close it.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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