THA housing inspections investigation

Quick Facts:

  • FOX23 undercover investigation found Tulsa Housing Authority employees appearing to break inspection rules
  • THA uses tax money to run low-income apartments.

An undercover FOX23 investigation caught the Tulsa Housing Authority breaking the rules.

THA uses tax dollars to run low-income apartments.       
FOX23 Investigative Reporter Janna Clark heard from employees and tenants who say THA's been cheating on inspections.

Clark said THA employees have been telling her about this for a couple of years.  She went undercover to find out the truth and what we found prompted a federal investigation.

Video shows one guy running through the apartment complex carrying a door during a HUD inspection.

FOX23 showed tenant Heather Walker our video.

"They're not doing what they should at all," said Walker.

On Sept. 29, HUD inspected Towne Square near Peoria and Apache to make sure people like Chiquita Brown get adequate low-income housing.

"This is my home. At the end of the day that's where I lay my head," said Brown.

Tulsa Housing Authority supervisors, managers, tech crew and maintenance workers showed up from other THA apartment complexes.
They didn't know FOX23 was watching.

Clark saw THA managers wait for an hour-and-a-half. Employees told FOX23 they're waiting to find out which apartments they're supposed to sneak in.

Then the inspector shows up with THA management.  He gives out the random list of the 23 apartments he'll check. Then another THA manager leaves with an empty box. Sixteen minutes later, she comes back with the apartment keys.

HUD rules say workers are not supposed to go in apartments ahead of the inspector to fix problems.

But someone from THA must've leaked the apartment numbers, because four minutes after the inspector shows up two guys with backpacks are on the move.
Robert Ford saw them.
"Do they normally have backpacks like that?" Clark asked.
"No, no," said Ford.

FOX23 saw four pairs, employees call them "the rat pack" and say they're specifically chosen to slip into the apartments the inspector will check without the inspector seeing them.

Inside their backpacks are the tools they need to make repairs, to fix leaky faucets, use touch-up paint and vacuum up roaches.
FOX23 saw one supervisor come out with a hand vacuum.

Clark talked to people who got their apartment inspected that day. They said the rat pack came in and were in a big hurry; fixing everything they could. They said 30 minutes to an hour later the inspector came in.

Over and over again FOX23 saw the rat pack go in and by the time the inspector rolls into that same area the rat packs are out of sight.

Donnell Vann saw it.

"There they go," he said.
"Same guys that went in the apartment?" Clark asked.
"Same guys," he said.

FOX23 saw people in the rat pack pause or look around before they go in. 
One supervisor's held a filter behind his back. This manager was all over that complex.
Video shows her going in an apartment and then later, comes out, looks around and runs off.

"There should be no need to sneak around, it's really weird," said Walker.

Later that day, FOX23 saw the rat pack rush out of the last apartments.
They got in their trucks and took off.  Once again, the inspector came through after them.

"I don't care if we're low income or a mansion, right is right and wrong is wrong," said Brown.

Three THA executives agreed to watch FOX23's video. 

"Why is he running with a door?" Clark asked.
"I have no idea," said Chea Redditt, CEO, "Maybe so nobody saw him and thought he was doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing."

Redditt said the rat pack is allowed to do last-minute repairs, even on the day of the inspection.

But before the inspector and senior vice president Mel Garner show up at the complex, Garner's supposed to call the apartment complex and tell the rat pack to leave. 

"I did make that call that day," said Garner.

"When we arrive on site they better be gone their jobs are at risk if they're not," said Reddit.

But the rat pack didn't leave; they kept going in apartments for more than 2 hours.

"They're absolutely supposed to be gone when inspector shows up. Something may have happened, a breakdown in communication or something else. I don't know why they were still out there I can't even begin answer that," said Reddit.

HUD regulations say "if the inspector suspects the property is sending personnel into areas ahead of the inspection… he must ask them to stop. If they don't, he has to report it."

After Clark called HUD and told them what we saw, she got an email that says HUD is "looking into the allegations."

Clark got the inspection report from that day. THA got a great score: 94 out of 100.  

HUD said if they get a score higher than 90 they only have to do these inspections every three years. FOX23 is still waiting to see what HUD learns.