City asks contractor for money back


A contractor who did repairs under the Baltimore Housing Authority's emergency no-bid program was asked last month to return $17,164.30 for work not done or not required in four units.

In a letter dated June 20, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City asked contractor Westley Johnson to reimburse the money based on appraisals of four units by federal inspectors conducting a routine audit.

That brings to nearly $50,000 the amount of money the Housing Authority is asking to be reimbursed by Mr. Johnson -- one of 32 contractors to participate in the no-bid program that a federal grand jury is investigating for possible corruption.

Earlier this year, the Housing Authority wrote a separate letter to Mr. Johnson, asking him to return $32,070.21 for work not done on four other units examined by representatives of the regional inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The earlier letter to Mr. Johnson was among notices sent in March and April to seven contractors, asking them to correct deficiencies in 54 units and/or to make reimbursements to the Housing Authority.

Another contractor, Budget Contractors, was asked to return $18,431 for four units, while two other companies were asked to return less than $1,000 each.

In all, 58 units -- among 60 to 70 that were examined by federal inspectors this spring -- have been cited for incomplete work.

The units were chosen to be a representative sample of work done by the largest contractors that participated in the $23 million program created last year to reduce the authority's vacancy rate. About 1,100 units were scheduled for repairs under the program. The average cost of renovating a unit was $20,000.

Mr. Johnson, who rehabilitated 18 units under the program, declined to comment this week on the June 20 letter from the Housing Authority. But in an interview last month, Mr. Johnson said some of the figures cited for work not done were inflated and that any oversights were unintentional.

Daniel P. Henson III, executive director of the Housing Authority, also declined to comment on the most recent letter to Mr. Johnson. But he said his agency is negotiating with contractors to get the work done properly.

"Some of the OIG [office of inspector general] appraisals are wrong," Mr. Henson added, though he would not be specific.

Items specified for reimbursement in the June 20 letter to Mr. Johnson range from $7.50 for missing doorstops to more than $5,000 for the buffing of floors.

"The total amount due this authority does not cover the painting of any units and one public area. The OIG appraisers feel that there are overcharges in painting of walls, ceilings and trim," the letter said.

Mr. Johnson set up his company, J & J Management, in 1992 -- a year before the Housing Authority began its no-bid program.

Meanwhile, the regional inspector general for HUD said his office isn't planning additional inspections of units renovated under the housing authority's no-bid program and is nearing the completion of its audit.

A confidential draft of the audit should be sent to the Housing Authority for comments within two weeks and the final public report should be available by mid-August, said Edward F. Momorella, whose Philadelphia office is conducting the audit of the authority.

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