More than a year after 1st Ward council candidate Alveria Spencer was found to have allegedly underreported her household income to qualify for public housing assistance she has yet to repay the Paterson Housing Authority the reduced $4,000 penalty.
“It’s been longer than a year, they haven’t paid anything,” said Irma Gorham, director of the authority, in late August.
The authority in a meeting before a hearing officer on June 12th, 2014 advised Spencer that she “owed back charges in the amount of $16,075 for unreported income,” according to records obtained from the authority.
Spencer’s household income went over the program’s limit as she allegedly allowed her now husband Michael Ward, who earned approximately $34,000 as an employee of the authority, to reside at her Laurel Street apartment whose rent was being paid through Section 8 or public housing assistance.
Spencer owed the back charges based on rental payments the authority paid out from December 1st, 2013 to June 30th, 2014, according to records. The $16,075 penalty was reduced to $4,000. The authority’s attorney said the amount was reduced because the authority only had enough evidence to substantiate a $4,000 penalty.
“That’s a non-issue,” said Spencer on Tuesday when asked if she has intentions to repay the federal funds. “It’s not an issue anymore,” she said.
When asked to elaborate, Spencer repeated, “The housing authority is no longer an issue. And you know when you’re in politics how people look at everything they can look at.”
“There’s nothing to even discuss about that if it’s not an issue,” said Spencer. She said she was more interested in discussing her platform.
Spencer’s attorney Theresa Richardson in a letter dated October 3rd, 2014 – which was released through a records request few weeks ago – cast doubt on the investigation that resulted in the penalty.
“Ms. Spenser-Ward [sic] denies giving testimony that Mr. Ward ever lived with her until AFTER they were married,” wrote Richardson. She argues in the letter that she has rent receipts which would prove that Ward was residing at second floor apartment of 225 North 11th Street in Prospect Park.
Richardson wrote that the couple living together was something concocted by the authority and “not part of the hearing officers [sic] decision.” Though Richardson wrote the hearing officer did not conclude the two were living together in Spencer’s apartment she nonetheless rejected the hearing officer’s decision in the letter.
“The Wards reject the Hearing Officers [sic] decision and your rendition of the facts,” wrote Richardson.
When asked about the matter in person on September 9th, 2015, Richardson did not immediately recall the letter or her client.
Richardson did not respond to a phone call for comment last week.
“People in the community are trying to make it an issue, but it’s a non-issue,” Spencer continued. “You know when you run for politics – you know what the game is.”
Spencer said her detractors are attempting tarnish her credibility and integrity. She suggested their attempt is little more than an exercise in futility. “That’s not the case here,” she said before repeating the matter is a “non-issue.”
Gorham said the authority intends to collect the amount of money it has “advised” Spencer to pay back. When asked if there’s a time limitation given that the authority has yet to initiate court proceedings to collect.
“There’s no statute of limitation when they owe us federal dollars,” said Gorham.
Trina Perry, a neighbor to Spencer, who testified at the hearing more than a year ago, said, “I have no idea why she wouldn’t just go ahead clear the air and pay back the small amount and get it over with.”
Perry said the couple took advantage of a program that is designed to help needy families. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines the Section 8 program as a “major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.”
When asked if she would consider voting for Spencer in the five-person 1st Ward special election on November 3rd, 2015, Perry replied in the negative.
Perry said the matter raises doubts about Spencer’s integrity as she seeks a seat on the council that controls the city’s purse. “To me it was a deliberate deceiving of taxpayers on both of them,” she said.
Perry, who fell out with Spencer, said the two agreed to a truce earlier in the year and that she would not say anything negative about the woman. She said voters should do research before heading to the booth.