DC Housing Authority Headquarters
DC Housing Authority headquarters. Credit: Darrow Montgomery/file

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DCHA Director Brenda Donald’s new deputy was previously fired from the New York City Housing Authority in 2015 for his role in selling off millions of dollars of new, unused supplies for “pennies on the dollar.”

A New York Daily News article from 2015 names Victor Martinez as one of four NYCHA senior managers held accountable when a city audit found “a number of serious deficiencies in our business practices that hamper our ability to provide timely and quality service to NYCHA’s residents.”

Martinez, along with two new senior VPs, Nona Eath and LaTweeta Smyers, started working for DCHA in mid December.

Donald says in an email that DCHA used a headhunting firm to find Martinez, and she was aware of the circumstances under which he left NYCHA when she hired him.

“It is not unusual for senior leaders to be terminated during Mayoral transitions and multiple sources confirmed that there were no concerns regarding mismanagement,” Donald says in an email. “With excellent recommendations and further insight into the situation for New York, we felt comfortable extending the offer to Mr. Martinez.”

Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in January 2014, and Martinez was fired in April 2015.

Donald argues that “it often takes a few months for an administration to figure out its team, just as it has taken me to make decisions about the DCHA team.”

Donald took over DCHA on an interim basis last May. She received a two-year contract in August after the DCHA board opted to abandon its outside search.

In New York, Martinez had been put in charge of the housing authority’s inventory unit the year before he was fired. Donald says in an email that she learned through the search and interview process that problems with NYCHA’s inventory controls, management, and system business processes existed when Martinez came into the role.

“Unfortunately Mr. Martinez took the fall for failed policies and actions of his predecessors during the time of leadership changes,” she says. “There were never any concerns regarding corruption or criminal activities. All of this was disclosed to the executive search firm and was confirmed by their independent and very detailed background checks.”

Martinez told a DCHA board of commissioners’ committee that he has 26 years of experience in housing authorities and nonprofits, according to the minutes of the Dec. 29, 2021 meeting.

Eath, one of the new senior VPs, told the committee that she’s worked for housing authorities in Birmingham, Dallas, and most recently Tucson. Smyers said she has 16 years of experience with housing authorities, including as a senior VP of operations at Elm City Communities in New Haven, Connecticut, and the director of the voucher program at the Housing Authority of Cook County, according to the meeting minutes.

Martinez will oversee DCHA’s property management, the Housing Choice Voucher program, the Continued Occupancy Division, and the Office of Capital Programs, Donald says. She declined to disclose the salaries of the three new senior members of her team, except to say they are “consistent with other DCHA executive positions.”