Complaints about property for seniors worth investigation

Correction
8/1/13 - Terril Bates, director of Public Housing Operations at the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, did not alter the language of 22 complaints in a letter from James Treasure, president of Lubertha Johnson Estates Resident Council. Treasure sent out two versions of his complaints, making it appear that Bates altered his response. He apologized for the mistake.

Lubertha Johnson Estates, one of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority’s properties for low-income seniors, has problems. Over a year old, there are roof leaks and construction defect issues.

The Resident Council president, James Treasure, sent me a list of 22 concerns.

On Thursday, the neatly typed eight-page response from Terril Bates, director of Public Housing Operations at the authority, was presented to the nine-member authority board.

The first thing I noticed: The complaints had been rephrased and words dropped, making it appear the complainers were semi-illiterate, sometimes almost incomprehensible. Since I had a copy of the original complaint, it struck me as odd. I know the impression words make. Poor punctuation and incomplete sentences leave the impression the writer is not smart. It suggests the complaint might not be valid.

Again and again, Bates’ summary of the complaint altered the way Treasure had submitted it.

Bates presented what seemed to be reasonable explanations in many cases. She explained that staffing changes and shortages created some delays in the election of the council.

Treasure wrote a complete sentence saying, “Repair services have been less than satisfactory.” Yet on the report provided to the board at Thursday’s meeting, it came out “Services of repair have been less than satisfactory.”

Yet her own explanation didn’t make similar mistakes, at least not frequently.

Complaint No. 6: “Potable water was coming out of kitchen faucets.” Bates’ version: “Potable water were coming out faucets.”

Bates explained the Department of Housing and Urban Development scheduled a rigorous inspection and repairs were made.

She admitted there were roof leaks, and it was a construction issue. General contractor Burke Construction built the $10.5 million, 112-unit project at 2900 Perry Plaza, and the housing authority is in litigation over the defects.

Over the past few days, I’ve received more than a dozen complaints about Lubertha Johnson Estates — more than any other housing authority property, partly because it is new, and there are expectations that a new property won’t have major problems. Residents complain about defective sprinklers, defective entry and exit gates, lack of handicapped parking signs and maintenance workers parking and blocking entrances and exits.

Bates’ answer: “SNRHA will conduct resident education to include asking residents to provide information as to the vendor, date, time, license plate and other information that will assist management in contacting violators.” (Note: Not a typo or dropped word in the answer.)

The 22 complaints didn’t always offer specifics, claiming misuse of funds without any specifics. And some complaints were unclear and poorly written.

Enough concerns were raised at the commission’s last meeting that the Rev. Dave Casaleggio, the chairman, suggested holding the next meeting there, if that’s legal.

Commissioner Dora LaGrande told an authority employee who cited staff shortages that residents “shouldn’t have to suffer because we have staffing issues.” She also said, “All this makes no sense on a property that’s one year old.”

This was the same meeting where a request to the inspector general asking for a civil and criminal audit of the housing authority was dismissed as mostly meritless.

Casaleggio and LaGrande both discounted allegations in the complaint filed by Beatrice Turner, Deborah Jackson and Beverly Hannon. The women have received no response yet from HUD.

Casaleggio said: “When she (Turner) brings something to us, there’s something to it.” But he also said she becomes abrasive, and during public meetings has yelled ugly things at him personally as well as others.

No question, Turner is abrasive.

I’ve known her for decades, and she’s screamed at me more than once.

However, people tell her their problems and ask for help.

She regularly calls the authority’s executive director, John Hill.

Right now, it’s the authority vs. the activist. A HUD audit could get to the truth.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275.