Rogersville Housing Authority residents petition board to remove director

Jeff Bobo • May 10, 2013 at 10:34 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Citing allegations of harassment and threats, several residents of the Rogersville Housing Authority presented the Board of Directors Thursday with a petition containing 114 names seeking the removal of RHA Director Becky Wolfe.

Wolfe answered the allegations by stating she was hired to enforce federal HUD regulations at the RHA.

She acknowledged that “three out of five residents” aren’t going to be happy with enforcement of the rules, but she also suggested the group attending Thursday’s board meeting wasn’t representative of all the residents who occupy the 204 RHA units.

RHA resident Stephen Lamb told the board that although the residents are poor, they are also people and deserve to live without the constant threat of eviction being hung over their heads.

Lamb added, “When family members go to visit residents — grandchildren and children — and fliers are being put on their car that they’re going to be towed, and then that resident is called and harassed about people being at their home, there’s an issue with that.”

Lamb said people are afraid that when they go to their mailbox or answer their phone they’re going be harassed or threatened with eviction.

RHA resident Linda Dugger, who started the petition, said she was upset when Wolfe called another resident inquiring about vehicles parked on the street only two days after that person’s husband died.

“The reason I called was because the vehicle had been there twice, and we didn’t know anybody had died,” Wolfe said.

Dugger replied, “Don’t even come across with that. You know everything that goes on.”

One resident complained about RHA parking permit requirements for parking on public streets.

A husband and wife complained that they had been addressed by Wolfe only as “mister” and “missy” and never by their names.

Another woman said she feels about an inch tall after speaking to Wolfe.

“They don’t want their feelings hurt — every time you’re talking down to them like they’re trash,” Dugger told Wolfe. “You talk down to people, Becky.”

Another resident claimed that Wolfe put her down for living in public housing, and accused Wolfe of having “a cold heart.”

Dawn Sweet, a caseworker with Volunteers of America which provides services for veterans and their families, has clients who are RHA residents. Sweet said she was “mortified” by the way Wolfe spoke to her, her clients, and other residents.

Sweet described Wolfe as “unprofessional” and “hateful.”

“She never invited me in so we could speak in private about the situation,” Sweet said. “It was out in the open and anybody could have walked in and heard the information she was giving. The way that she spoke about the clients was horrible. I’ve never spoken about anyone in that manner — not as a professional.”

Sweet added, “Every person who signed that petition, and every person I’ve spoken to and heard stories about is just tired of being disrespected. I felt disrespected as a professional and as a human being.”

Wolfe told the residents attending Thursday’s meeting it’s her job to enforce HUD’s rules.

“I understand that three out of five tenants don’t like what we do, but we are good stewards of the federal government’s money and their regulations,” Wolfe said.

RHA housing manager Loren Fugate told the group that the rules are enforced to prevent people from taking advantage of the system, such as bringing unclaimed income into a residence.

“How fair is it for one person to be paying a full amount of rent because they reported all of their income, and someone else not reporting two or three people living there,” Fugate told the group. “They’re getting away from paying that extra money. How fair is that? When it comes to how many nights people are staying, it’s not because we’re being mean, and it’s not that we want to have control of your lives. HUD expects if people are living in your home, to report that income.”

Fugate added, “Most of the people that I’m seeing in here are names that, unfortunately, I know because letters have been sent. People who are having problems with lease violations.”

The board said it wouldn’t be able to take any action related to the petition and complaints during Thursday’s meeting, but the issue will be taken seriously and will be looked at.

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