Mashpee Ready To Review Housing Assistance Program

Town manager Joyce M. Mason and the board of selectmen are taking a closer look at the financing, operations and management of the Mashpee Housing Authority’s housing assistance program,

“We are putting together a scope of services,” Ms. Mason said, adding that the scope of services was requested by the housing authority and will be forwarded to its members for review and approval for an audit.

Community Preservation Act funding was approved by May 2012 Town Meeting to provide residents with short-term rental assistance (up to 24 months) and mortgage assistance (up to three months), one-time emergency rental assistance, one-time assistance with first/last/security deposits, and help with downpayments for first-time home buyers. Applicants for the program are required to complete an application and provide the housing authority with CORI [Criminal Offender Report Information] forms, government-issued picture IDs, and release forms for all adult household members ages 17 and older. Preference is given to veterans and residents who work in the Town of Mashpee.

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The intention in conducting a scope of services is to ensure that the program’s guidelines are being followed and that its purpose is being fulfilled, Ms. Mason explained.

“These are town funds, taxpayer dollars,” she said. “We should be allowed to review the program and how it is being handled.”

Last month, selectmen requested an audit of the program—which was originally approved for funding over a three-year period at $100,000 per year—after raising questions about its expenditure of $300,000 since its approval at the May 2012 Town Meeting.

Instead of having a new audit completed, the housing authority’s board of commissioners provided selectmen with an audit that was completed in April, but did not cover the program or include any financial information. Although the housing authority agreed to provide the selectmen with additional information, selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb, who initiated the audit request, was still left with questions regarding the financing of the program, the terms of assistance, and the process of approving applicants.

However, housing authority executive director Leila Botsford maintains that the housing authority provided the board with all financial records related to the program, upon Mr. Gottlieb’s request.

Ms. Botsford said yesterday that she and the board of commissioners feel that they are being singled out, since they have submitted audits every year.

“What legal right do they have to make us submit to another audit?” she asked.

On Thursday of last week July 17, the housing authority’s board of commissioners sent a letter to Ms. Mason stating that they had met to discuss the request for a financial audit, voting unanimously to agree under the following terms: that they receive a written legal opinion from Mashpee town counsel stating the town’s legal authority to audit housing authority financial records; that they receive a written scope of services from the audit company acceptable to the housing authority, to be approved by Ms. Botsford; and that the Town of Mashpee pays for the audit and reimburses the housing authority for all costs, including staff time, related to the audit.

Although there is no time frame for the review, Mr. Gottlieb said that the selectmen hope to receive information from the auditor before September, when the housing authority will request additional funding from the Community Preservation Committee for the program.

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