Law

Audit slams White Mountain Apache Tribe over housing funds






The headquarters of the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority in Arizona. Photo from WMAHA

The White Mountain Apache Tribe of Arizona has misspent millions of dollars in federal housing funds, according to a new audit.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development looked at the Indian Housing Block Grant awarded to the tribe. The audit uncovered $2.3 million in misspending by the White Mountain Apache Housing Authority and an additional $8.2 million in spending that wasn't properly documented.

Tribal council members influenced housing decisions, according to the audit. In some cases, the authority provided services to people who did not meet income eligibility requirements.

"At the request of tribal leadership, the authority housed a tribal councilperson as a benefit of the position. Tribal leadership requested that a councilperson obtain housing in an authority-assisted unit during the elected term," the audit stated. "However, the councilperson’s family income exceeded HUD income eligibility limits."

"In another instance, also at the request of tribal leadership, a tribal employee received housing in an authority-assisted unit," it continued. "The tribal employee was heavily involved in tribal economic development. However, the tribal employee’s family did not meet income restriction requirements and owned a home in another city".

The audit noted that the authority has more than 2,000 families on the waiting list. Despite the problems, HUD said it won't act on a recommendation to place the tribe's program into receivership.

"At this point, all we are willing to say is that we will work with WMAHA to help them resolve their issues and get everything back on track and serve the many tribal housing needs," Gene Gibson, a HUD spokesperson, told The Arizona Republic.

A document posted on the authority's website notes the tribal court convictions of several people involved in housing matters. Tonya Belknap, the former executive director, was among those found guilty on conspiracy, theft and other charges.

Get the Story:
Audit: Millions misspent by Apache housing agency (The Arizona Republic 7/12)

Relevant Documents:
The White Mountain Apache Housing Authority Did Not Always Comply With Its Indian Housing Block Grant Requirements (July 8, 2014)