Sen. Chuck Grassley has asked the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and newly confirmed Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to explain potentially excessive travel and conference expenses by the housing authority, including that the executive director reportedly has spent 158 days over four years attending conferences.
“While you may argue the necessity for the conferences, I believe that having an executive director gone an average of two additional months per year is a strain on the housing authority,” Grassley wrote to housing authority executive director Dawn Sanders-Garrett. “While I appreciate that housing authority administrators want to ensure that they have the proper training, I am much more concerned that taxpayer dollars are being spent on trips and excessive conference fees rather than on the programs themselves.”
Grassley asked the housing authority and Carson a series of questions about conference spending and attendance based on reporting from The Buffalo News.
Grassley has long conducted oversight over local housing authorities and HUD to ensure that the billions of taxpayer dollars dedicated to housing are spent appropriately to serve people in need of safe, affordable housing. Too often, according to Grassley’s inquiries and local media reports, local housing authorities focus more than necessary on salaries, travel, conference attendance and other priorities for the executive suite rather than the residents. Some housing authorities have long waiting lists for housing and maintenance backlogs, even as front office expenses on salaries and perks increase.
The letter is Grassley’s first letter to Carson. Grassley discussed his priorities in a meeting with Carson in January and expressed hope for greater focus on accountability from housing authorities and HUD than during the Obama Administration.