78°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

CEO disputes audit concluding Nevada housing program ‘one of the worst’

Updated February 7, 2018 - 7:55 pm

WASHINGTON — A Nevada nonprofit criticized for its handling of federal funds intended to help financially struggling homeowners is disputing the conclusions of anaudit that labeled it was “one of the worst participants” in the federal program.

The audit report included a Treasury Department decision to shift $6.7 million from Nevada to other states.

In a letter and phone interview, Verise Campbell, the CEO of the Nevada Affordable Housing Assistance Corp., said the audit counted only 39 percent of homeowners helped by the program in 2017.

She said even though the state’s economy is improving, “There are still some homeowners out there that need help, and we want to help them.”

Campbell spoke out days after the Review-Journal reported that the audit by the Treasury’s Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) found that the Nevada nonprofit was “one of the worst participants” in the federal program.

Because the audit found it failed to meet thresholds for the assistance in 2017, Nevada will see a reduction of $6.7 million, which will be redistributed to other states under a decision made by the Treasury Department.

Audit’s figure at issue

Calls to Campbell seeking comment on the Treasury Department’s action at the time were not returned. But in her letter to the Review-Journal dated Feb. 6, Campbell said the newspaper’s original story incorrectly reported that only 167 Nevadans were assisted by the Nevada’s Hardest Hit Fund in 2017, when 260 households were actually helped.

When shown that the figures were from the inspector general’s audit, she said the report used outdated figures.

The actual language from the audit report said that “only 167 Nevada homeowners received help from (the Hardest Hit Fund) last year, even though 72,048 people in Nevada were unemployed and the program has $84.7 million available to help them.”

Robert Sholars, communications director for SIGTARP, said the nonprofit may now have more current information, “but the number provided in the report is accurate, and we stand by it.”

The Nevada Hardest Hit Fund was created in 2010 to distribute TARP funds to provide principal reduction, unemployment mortgage assistance and second-mortgage reductions following the housing crisis during the Great Recession. The federal program is under the Treasury Department and the Nevada Housing Division, which contracted with NAHAC to administer it.

An earlier audit by SIGTARP in 2016 found $8.2 million in waste and abuse by the state program, including an $11,000 expense for a Mercedes-Benz for the then-CEO, who was later terminated. The agency also spent $10,963 on employee perks, bonuses, outings and lunches.

Unpublished phone number

Nevada officials also complained in 2015 that the agency was not making the funding available to the public. In a letter to the Treasury Department, the officials said “the public cannot reach NAHAC staff because they have an unpublished telephone number.”

The audit report in 2016, and the abuse in Nevada, prompted Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to seek a full audit of the TARP program and the Hardest Hit Fund in 2017.

Campbell was elevated to CEO of NAHAC after 2016 as part of an effort to address issues at the nonprofit, said Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, which oversees the Nevada Housing Division.

In response to the charges of wasteful spending, Campbell, in her letter, said “NAHAC acknowledges the missteps of the previous administration.”

“The state of operations prior to my arrival bears no resemblance to NAHAC’s current culture of accountability and full transparency,” she said.

In the telephone call, Campbell acknowledged that “it’s been a daunting process to turn this program around.”

Nonetheless, the SIGTARP audit found that during the past year, the agency did not provide mortgage modification assistance to any homeowners despite the fact that there were 49,849 homeowners in the state who owed more on their home than it was worth.

‘A disservice’ to Nevadans

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., called the audit findings “disgraceful and a disservice to the good people of our state.”

Titus is seeking a Nevada attorney general investigation and wants the state to restructure the program again to provide more oversight.

A spokeswoman for Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said “with respect to the Hardest Hit Fund, the matter remains with federal law enforcement, and the attorney general’s office stands ready to assist.”

“In fact, our office has reached out to the federal investigatory agency several times since September of 2016,” the spokeswoman said.

The Office of the Special Inspector General for TARP also has law enforcement authority to investigate wrongdoing, in addition to auditing.

Sholars said he could not comment on, or confirm, ongoing federal investigations.

Campbell said the Nevada program remains under audit, but she was unaware of any separate federal investigation by SIGTARP or other agencies.

Sholars urged Nevadans who have had problems with NAHAC to report their complaints to a hotline at www.sigtarp.gov/hotline.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Nye County pushes back against state gun bill
Gun store owner Robby Brentlinger and John Koenig, Chairman of the Nye County Board of Commissioners, discuss their thoughts on gun rights and Nevada Senate Bill 143. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday.
Atkinson pleads guilty to wire fraud charges
U.S. Attorney’s Office announces plea deal for charges against former Nevada Senate majority leader Kelvin Atkinson during a press conference on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleads guilty
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge Monday, less than a week after resigning from his post. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Melania Trump Speaks Out About Opioid Epidemic - VIDEO
Melania Trump speaks at the Westgate hotel about the Opioid epidemic in the United State and how this generation can be the group that ends it.
Nevada Legislative Session Preview: Education, Yucca Mountain and Microchips
The Nevada Legislature will be meeting to look at new bills that involve education and marriage age restrictions. Governor Sisolak has also requested to meet with the White House about the plutonium shipments sent to Nevada.
Cortez Masto, Rosen For Infanticide - VIDEO
If an abortionist — armed with scissors, clamps and a vacuum cleaner — can’t kill a baby while she’s still in the womb, he shouldn’t get another chance after she’s born. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen disagree.
THE LATEST
Judge could block billions for Trump’s planned border wall

A federal judge is expected to decide Friday whether to block the White House from spending billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

GOP conservative blocks overdue $19B disaster bill, for now

A House GOP conservative complaining of Washington’s free-spending and opaque ways temporarily blocked a long-overdue $19 billion disaster aid bill on Friday.

Abortion opponents widely divided over rape, incest issues

Even as the anti-abortion movement celebrates the sweeping bans passed in several states, it’s divided by a widening rift over whether those prohibitions should apply to victims of rape and incest.

Trump plans to declassify Russia intel documents

President Donald Trump says he will declassify documents related to the origins of the investigation into Russia’s links to the campaign.

N. Korea says US must drop nuke disarmament demand

North Korea said Friday that nuclear negotiations with the U.S. will never resume unless the Trump administration moves away from demands for total disarmament.