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Lackawanna housing official cleared in misuse of tenant council funds

Lackawanna City Council candidate John Ingram has been cleared of wrongdoing following an allegation he misused $2,900 in tenant council funds from the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority.

The absence of funds was discovered after a rent check written in April by Ingram, who used the tenant council account, bounced, said Mark E. Kuwik, LMHA executive director.

“He basically just grabbed the wrong check. He made a mistake," Kuwik said. "It was later determined that the funds were spent on community activities that were deemed unallowable expenses per HUD guidelines. They were not spent on Mr. Ingram. They were spent on community events like Community Fun Days. The situation has been rectified and full restitution has been made.”

The announcement came Tuesday afternoon after an executive session was held during a meeting of authority's Board of Commissioners.

Ingram serves as president of the Glover Gardens Tenant Council. He also serves as an authority board commissioner and a board trustee of the Lackawanna Public Library. He serves as chairman of the committee for Community Fun Days. Ingram lost his bid for a council seat in a 2017 race with businessman Mohamed Albanna.

Ingram did not face criminal charges.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said after the meeting. He declined further comment.

Lackawanna Community Fun Days is a two-day event held annually in Lackawanna. The funds were used for Fun Days expenses in 2017 that included bounce houses, hot dogs, tents and a DJ, said Kuwik.

“Tenant council funds can’t be spent on that,” Kuwik said. “Allowed expenditures, for example, include the purchase of office supplies and computer equipment, and fees spent on speakers."

Faith Gordon, a Lackawanna resident, was one of about 15 residents who attended the public meeting. She questioned the lack of scrutiny in tenant council funding.

"I just want to know why someone was authorized to spend federal money with a system of checks and balances," Gordon told the board.

To prevent this, all expenditures using tenant council funds must be approved in advance, Kuwik said.

"Kuwik informed HUD of the situation immediately and took prompt steps to address the situation. HUD has no basis to intervene further barring new information coming to light," said Olga Alvarez, public affairs specialist with the regional office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I didn’t want any perception of a cover-up,” said Frank Bybel, an attorney representing the housing authority. “The expenditures were not personal. There was no fraud involved. It was corrected immediately, and we found nothing.”

This is not the first time tenant council funds of the authority were misused. Residents of Baker Homes, another authority housing development, voted to remove the president of their tenant council in 2014 following an audit that found “suspicious” cash withdrawals and purchases using tenant council funds.

David Hardy, who had primary access to the ATM card and tenant council bank accounts, was removed after admitting he bought a ticket for a San Antonio Spurs game while in Texas for a housing conference.

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