To qualify for public housing assistance or Section 8 former school board candidate Alveria Spencer underreported her household income, according to documents from the Paterson Housing Authority.
Spencer was allegedly residing in the first floor apartment of 56 Laurel Street with Michael Ward, an employee of the authority. An anonymous tip to the Office of Inspector General at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development resulted in an investigation by the authority.
The investigation found an “unauthorized resident living in the unit,” reads a memorandum from the authority. Ward, whose income was approximately $34,000, boosted Spencer’s household income to the point where she was no longer eligible for housing assistance. The federal housing program assists “very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled,” according to the program’s website.
Spencer, who unsuccessfully ran in 2013 for a school board seat, did not fall into any of the aforementioned categories. When called for comments on Friday, Spencer said she would return a phone call on Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, Spencer called to provide a canned statement.
“I apologize,” said Spencer, “to you and everybody else in Paterson for not being able to share the details of my case because it’s pending litigation according to my attorney.” Spencer said her lawyer told her she could not comment.
When pressed for further information, an agitated Spencer said, “you’re being disrespectful, and I don’t like that.”
Striking a similar note, Ward said, “There’s no reason for me to say anything.” Ward handed in his resignation on November 4th, 2013, at the earliest sign of trouble. “When we approached him, he came back, and said I’m resigning,” said Irma Gorham, director of the authority.
“You have to wait until the outcome of the case,” said Ward. When asked for a docket number, Ward said there wasn’t one yet. Ward on Sunday said his lawyer would give a call; as of early Tuesday morning no call was received.
On April 1st, 2014, Spencer was issued a notice of termination by the authority based on the findings. She had repeatedly violated her lease agreement and housing assistance voucher conditions. During one instance, Spencer, unbeknownst to the authority, had her son residing at the apartment.
The program rules state that whenever an additional occupant is residing in the apartment for more than 14 days, it is incumbent upon the individual receiving the rental assistance to inform the authority.
In a meeting before a hearing officer on June 12th, 2014, Spencer was advised “that she owed back charges in the amount of $16,075 for unreported income,” according to records from the authority. Back charges were calculated based on rental charges from December 1st, 2013 to June 30th, 2014.
The authority calculated the back charges based on Ward’s income and Spencer’s unemployment benefits, according to records. However, that amount was reduced to approximately $4,000. “It was reduced to about $4,000, and we’re asking her to pay it back through a payment plan,” said Gorham.
“That’s what we felt would stand up, if we had to go to court over it,” added Ronald Citrenbaum, lawyer for the authority. That’s the amount we could solidly prove, said Citrenbaum.
When further asked why that amount was reduced Citrenbaum said there was insufficient evidence to demand back rent going back to December 2013.
Trina Perry, a neighbor to Spencer, who testified against the couple, said she thought that Spencer and Ward ought to have paid the $16,000 plus fines. “It’s definitely a slap on the wrist, but it’s still something the public needs to know,” said Perry.
Perry said the two of them had a good understanding of the system which allowed them to “defraud” the public. She said, “Anybody that knows them as a couple knows they’ve been living together for long time.”
Perry, who fell out with the couple over what she calls Spencer’s infantile need to control others, said the couple have been living together even before Spencer moved to the Laurel Street apartment.