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Former Housing Authority director calls criticism ‘unfair’

The former executive director of the Dunkirk Housing Authority is responding to a number of critical statements and practices that were discussed a board meeting on July 16. Rachel Braidich, in a prepared statement to the OBSERVER, outlined those items that came from residents and were not addressed by any board members.

She also denies taking any of the funds that were being set aside for a number of activities at the units. “I did not steal any funding or money from the Dunkirk Housing Authority ever,” Braidich wrote in a letter dropped off at the newspaper on Wednesday. “Any implication or statement that I did take money or funding is completely unfair and untrue.”

Braidich’s response comes at a time when the Dunkirk Housing Authority is going through some major changes and a bit of chaos. At a June 17 special meeting, which was held illegally since it was never publicized, the board approved moving forward with her dismissal. The termination, however, was not made official until July 2 and then approved by the board July 16.

In addition, longtime Authority attorney Peter Clark resigned before the July board meeting. He has since been replaced by Richard Morrisroe.

Braidich, in her response to the Aug. 4 OBSERVER article, discussed a number of points:

¯ The Fourth of July picnic at the high rise, which was an annual occurrence, had been planned. However, once she left the agency, that event was not seen through. “I was planning to have one on July 5. I spoke with two of the (board members) who asked me to wait until July 12 and they would then be able to volunteer their time to help,” she wrote. “Traditionally, in previous years there was a few volunteers to serve food and plan the party. In more recent years, to my knowledge and understanding there were fewer and fewer volunteers.”

¯ Funds to that came from the laundromats, she said, were ceased “per the recommendation of the auditor and fee accountant effective July 1, 2018, which was the beginning of the fiscal year,” she said. “As of that date, the entire profit from the laundry machines was deposited into the Housing Authority’s general account instead of being split between the ‘laundry fund’ accounts and the general account.”

¯ A transfer fee increase was not approved by Braidich, despite what some claimed during in the two recent meetings. She said the fee comes from the authority’s Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy. “They were in place when I started and I never requested that these fees be increased. And the fee is different based on the size of the unit,” she said. “The $400 transfer fee that this resident is referring to is for a one bedroom transfer fee. During my tenure with the Authority, the transfer fee for a one bedroom unit was always $400. That is also the lowest transfer fee at the Authority.”

¯ Screenings were discontinued, she noted, since the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy did not make the practice mandatory. “There was no criteria, checklist or rating system that provided guidance on what items should be looked at or considered when inspecting these units,” she wrote. “In turn, I felt that it was an invasion of privacy for the potential tenants and could pose to be a safety issue for the staff conducting the visits. … Also, it is not a requirement by HUD. It was eliminated.”

¯ Water pressure issues were reported in June, but no work orders were placed that month by residents regarding the mater.

Braidich also said all of the revenue and expenses to the Housing Authority are monitored by HUD, a fee accountant and an auditor. “There is also a treasurer position on the board,” she wrote. “Their duties include supervision of the care and maintenance of the books and accounts, submitting a statement of the condition of the finances of the Authority at each regular monthly meeting of the Authority as well as a full financial report to Authority at the annual meeting, which is held in January.

“I never took any money and handled the monies and funding as directed by best practices and any inference to the contrary is completely unfair and has been personally devastating to me and my family. I would like to extend a special thank you to my friends and family for their support and encouragement during this difficult time.”

In the meantime, the Authority is moving toward choosing a successor to Braidich. Its next meeting will be in September.

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