Management responds to Goodman Manor mold allegations

Staff Report

WILLIAMSON –Pauline Sturgill, Executive Director of the Williamson Housing Authority, has issued a statement regarding allegations of potential health risks at the Goodman Manor made by resident Kenny Evans.

Prior to publishing allegations made by Evans, which have been detailed in the article above, the Williamson Daily News requested additional information from the Williamson Housing Authority (WHA) in an effort to preserve objectivity and present both sides of the issue.

In an email, Sturgill states, “Let me first state for the record, Mr. Evans has not reported finding any mold at Goodman Manor to me, nor to my maintenance staff. Mr. Evan’s is a longtime public housing resident and has contacted the Authority on numerous occasions when he has had a maintenance issue or a complaint. Mr. Evans knows that he has only to call or stop by our office to inform us of his findings and we would have responded immediately. I don’t understand why Mr. Evans would attend a City Council meeting or visit the newspaper repeatedly, without first speaking to me or my Director of Operations, Ted Hatfield. The Authority takes health and safety concerns very seriously. The wellbeing of our residents is of utmost importance to us.

On September 26, 2016, Brett Vance visited the Williamson Housing Authority unannounced; to discuss a resident complaint he had received. Mr. Hatfield, WHA Director of Operations, and Sherri Murphy, the Authority’s Finance Officer, joined us for the impromptu meeting. Mr. Vance started the meeting by stating that approximately three weeks earlier; he had conducted an inspection of the eighth and ninth floor of Goodman Manor, at the urging of a resident who complained of finding mold. Mr. Vance apologized three times for coming to me about the resident’s complaint, stating he was under pressure from the resident to do so. (The Authority was not informed by Mr. Vance that he would be inspecting the building prior to his inspection, nor afterwards.)

I explained to Mr. Vance, just as I am explaining to you, that no complaint had been made to the Authority about mold so he was catching me unaware of the situation. I asked Mr. Vance where to locate the mold, but he refused to tell me, explaining he could not give away the name of the resident who was complaining. Mr. Vance stated to Mr. Hatfield, Ms. Murphy and myself that he had no authority to be in Goodman Manor to inspect for mold and wasn’t sure that what he found was mold, but that he wanted us to be aware of the complaint. Mr. Vance indicated by his remarks that he had conducted no formal testing for mold.

I asked Mr. Vance again to inform me where to find the mold and he again refused. He did show me photos that he had taken of a door, with his phone, but they did not provide enough information for me to determine anything other than I was looking at a door. At no time during our meeting did Mr. Vance mention finding ‘black mold’.

Regardless, I took Mr. Vance’s visit very seriously and requested Mr. Hatfield conduct his own inspection of all 102 units and their doors. Two days later, Mr. Hatfield reported that he had examined every door casing in the building and could find no mold. As no tenant had yet come forward to provide us with any insight into the matter, and Mr. Vance refused to tell me where to look or who to seek guidance from, we were at a loss on how to proceed.

I conducted my own inspection a few days later, randomly inspecting two door casings on the eighth floor. What I found in the corner of a door casing was sticky grime, resulting from years of grease and dirt build up. I took photos of the grime and shared them with Mr. Hatfield. He scheduled all door casings to be washed this winter, as part of our winter routine maintenance schedule.

Eight days after Mr. Vance’s visit, on October 4, 2016, I was contacted by HUD. It was reported to me that a Goodman Manor resident had written Congressman Jenkins to complain of mold and asbestos in Goodman Manor. Mr. Jenkins forwarded the resident’s letters to the HUD Baltimore office. Julia Borders, Public Housing Revitalization Specialist, upon receiving a copy of the letters, reached out to me to conduct her own investigation into the complaint. I was told by Ms. Borders that a letter from Mr. Davis to a Goodman Manor resident was included with the complaint to Mr. Jenkins. I was not aware until this moment that Mr. Vance had produced a letter. I did not and have never received a copy of Mr. Vance’s letter.

I explained the same thing to Ms. Borders that I am explaining to you. No Goodman Manor resident has come forward with a complaint of mold. I informed Ms. Borders that my staff had conducted inspections following Mr. Davis’ visit, but had not been able to locate mold in the building. I asked Ms. Borders to inform me who sent the letter so that I could follow up with the resident, ideally locating and addressing the mold issue. Ms. Borders refused, due to confidentiality issues. Therefore, I was again left in the dark as where the mold is supposedly located or whom I might contact to learn more. I did email Ms. Borders copies of the photographs I took of the grime I found on the door casings and explained our intent to wash all doors this winter.

As for the complaint of asbestos, copies of the air quality tests conducted during the recent abatement were sent to Ms. Borders. Ms. Borders determined that the Williamson Housing Authority had done everything in its power to address the mold situation and had done so professionally and in a timely manner. Ms. Borders wrote Mr. Jenkins informing him that she had researched the matter and that no action needed to be taken at this time, in regards to the management or upkeep of the building.

After speaking with Ms. Borders, I contacted Keith Blankenship, the Executive Director of the Mingo County Health Department, explaining my predicament. I requested a copy of Mr. Vance’ letter as it was being circulated in Mr. Jenkins office and the HUD office. I explained that I had not received a copy of the letter and felt at a disadvantage addressing HUD about the complaint. Mr. Blankenship stated that Mr. Vance was not in the office that day, but that he would return my call on Monday. On Monday, Mr. Vance did return my call. At that time, I explained to Mr. Vance that his letter to the Goodman Manor resident had been forwarded to Congressman Jenkins, and that I would like a copy for my records. Mr. Vance flatly refused to share his letter with me, informing me that if I wanted a copy of the letter I would have to ask Mr. Jenkins for it personally.

Goodman Manor is a nine story building that maintains 102 residences, four store front locations, and a community room, kitchen and pantry. We have a full time custodian who is on each floor daily, cleaning and maintaining the building. In addition, my maintenance staff addresses every emergency work order that comes in, immediately. Mold is, and always has been, considered an emergency. We do occasionally receive complaints from other projects about mold and Ted Hatfield personally visits those units to address and correct any findings.

At this point in time, the WHA Board of Commissioners and I believe we have satisfied all requests for information. The City Council reviewed, after Mr. Vance’s visit, what steps the Authority took upon verbal notification from the MCHD and HUD and believe our actions were proper. Until or unless Mr. Evans or someone else steps forward to inform us where exactly we can locate the mold, we are left to continue fumbling in the dark.

Mr. Evan has a long history of being a disgruntled, unhappy man, who repeatedly attempts to make our jobs at the Authority more difficult. Mr. Evan’s likes to post negative videos about the Authority on Facebook, recruit new residents to engage in negative behavior towards staff, and has attempted on more than one occasion to sue the Authority. We find this latest attack to be just another effort on his part to play hide and seek with the truth.”

Staff Report

comments powered by Disqus