12 Investigates: Questionable spending from RRHA

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Tonight, 12 Investigates uncovers questionable spending by a major Richmond agency - funded by your tax dollars.

We've been digging into the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority for the past month - ever since its police chief was put on administrative leave, with no public explanation. Now, after a tip for one of our viewers, we've pulled back another layer.

The RRHA manages thousands of properties, subsidized with millions of your tax dollars. The agency had a $72 million budget last year. Each of its public housing communities are represented by a tenant council. And according to an email from last October, the agencies former Chief Financial Officer found that two of those councils failed audits of their finances: Creighton Court and Hillside.

The email to RRHA CEO Adrienne Goolsby zeroed in on "questionable transactions" in Creighton - including a bus trip to Charlestown, West Virginia to the Hollywood Casino on May 5 of 2012. According to a letter from the Newton Bus Company, the trip was for 55 passengers and it cost the RRHA $1,515. According to invoices, obtained by NBC12, current RRHA commissioner Marilyn Olds signed off on the trip.

We asked to see the full audits but were only provided with the auditor's letter to each tenant council. Several of those letter raise concerns about the council's "insufficient detail of financial records." The Hillside Court audit says the council was even missing receipts.

In a letter from its lawyer, Michelle Waller, the RRHA said, "when the authority became aware of the use of the tenant organization funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for residents' day trip travel costs, we conducted a review and then an audit of the overall use of tenant council funds. The Audit concluded that while the use of the funds in this instance was inappropriate and unfortunate, it did not violate HUD regulations and no patter of abuse existed."

Again, NBC12 asked to see the full audits and were told they were exempt - a possible violation of the Freedom of Information Act. We believe we have the right to the full reports and are still working to get them from the RRHA.

The agency tells us it now conducts periodic reviews of tenant council spending to make sure trips like the one to the West Virginia casino are not funded again.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.