I-TEAM: Aiken Public Housing Authority expresses concerns over 'issues' with former CEO

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Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

The Aiken Public Housing Authority's board meeting revealed they are dealing with "issues." (Source: WRDW)

AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WRDW/WAGT) -- The board which oversees Aiken Public Housing Authority is expressing concern over "issues" inside the agency.

This comes after a recent I-Team investigation questioned where $1.1 million in taxpayer dollars went. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is now investigating.

The board also did not approve next year's operating budget.

It started as a normally standard monthly board meeting over lunch, but quickly devolved into several hours of intense questioning of current authority CEO Chanosha Lawton.

“I don't know how to monitor you during the course of the year if something goes down or up,” board member James Horvath said. “Now you got 43 excuses to explain away any questions I have.”

The board had plenty of questions for the Lawton about her proposed operating budget for next year.

“Go down to legal fees – legal and professional fees – we are going to spend a lot more on lawyers now?” Horvath questioned.

“We may have to,” Lawton responded.

“Well, we looked at what we already used this year as it relates to some of the FOIA requests when we have to seek legal services, so we budgeted in more this year because of what we had to do last year."

“Okay, 10 months in you spent zero,” Horvath said.

The board met with Lawton behind closed doors in executive session to discuss financial and contractual matters. The chairman of the board emerged after the executive session and spoke as well.

"There are some issues [that we] need to deal without faulting, blaming anyone,” chairman James Gallman said. “We will continue to move forward with the hope we will have everything up and running, not up and running, but reasonably report to HUD on Sept 30."

The board would not elaborate on the "issues." Our I-Team exposed an apparent conflict of interest between the former CEO of the authority – Reggie Barner -- a non-profit, and several Section 8 apartment buildings just two weeks ago.

We also found the federal government is questioning $1.1 million in taxpayer dollars owed by Barner to the authority.

"Those things Reggie Barner did later on was not for the housing authority or CDIC,” Gallman said. “It had to do with what he wanted to do to move his own life forward."

But how the authority will be move forward is still left to be decided.

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