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The afternoon before Election Day, the D.C. Housing Authority Board of Commissioners was supposed to meet in executive session to discuss mayoral ally and DCHA Director Brenda Donald’s fate with the agency, according to multiple sources. But DCHA board chair Dionne Bussey-Reeder, whom Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed, abruptly canceled the meeting with no public explanation given.
Multiple DCHA sources tell City Paper the board was planning to discuss an internal audit of DCHA’s contract with a firm called Verbosity, which identified potential document fraud and procurement crimes and Donald’s role in those findings. Sources also say that Donald’s job is potentially in danger as a result of the audit.
Two of Donald’s top deputies, Rachel Joseph and Lorry Bonds, were put on administrative leave last week, according to sources familiar with the circumstances. The action followed a meeting of the board’s Audit and Finance Committee last Thursday. During the meeting, the board was notified of three internal audits of contracts, including the Verbosity contract, and then went into executive session.
Sources say Joseph and Bonds’ leave is related to findings in those audits, but they did not provide further information about the audit’s findings. The three audits indicate that Bonds was involved in years of contract mismanagement, according to DCHA sources. Two of the three internal audits involve contracts, with Verbosity and a firm called ThinkBox, identified in a recent scathing report from HUD. The HUD report called out failures in just about every aspect of DCHA’s business, and called for investigations into several procurement issues.
Joseph and Bonds’ administrative leave is just the latest indication of dysfunction at the agency under Donald’s tenure. Victor Martinez, Donald’s former No. 2, left DCHA in October after working there for less than a year. Joseph worked under Donald when she was the director of the District’s Child and Family Services Agency. She started as DCHA’s chief operating officer when Donald was appointed director last August.
DCHA declined City Paper’s request for comment on Joseph and Bonds’ leave. Bussey-Reeder did not reply to an email or answer a phone call Monday evening.
A DCHA spokesperson says the emergency meeting was canceled because the board “had incorrect information about the 48-hour notice requirement.” The Open Meetings Act requires 48 hours notice for most public meetings but not for “emergency meetings.” When presented with the legal requirement, sources say Bussey-Reeder’s response was that the 48-hour notice still applied because discussion of the director’s potential involvement in fraud did not amount to an emergency.
This story is developing.