To the Editor:
I read with great interest your Sept. 26th commentary on the Mobile Housing Board and was appalled that you would publish such inaccurate information, albeit your opinion. Even though I have not worked at MHB for over nine (9) months, you made many references to me in an apparent attempt to hurt my good name, and hurt my chances of being re-elected to represent the good citizens of State House District 97. While we may disagree on many of the issues, I am disappointed that you skewed, and in some cases, misrepresented the facts, merely to make a point. Although there were many inaccuracies in your column, six (6) statements are especially egregious. I have outlined them below.
Lagniappe: HUD’s investigation was particularly rough on State Rep. Adline Clarke, who served as MDE’s vice president. It pointed out that she had a conflict of interest in awarding a multimillion-dollar contract to a company owned by her half-brother.
Clarke – Fact Checker: Your statement is false. First, HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) never said I awarded any contract to Superior Masonry (a company owned by my half-brother). To the contrary, HUD noted that maintenance contracts did not come under my purview, nor under the purview of Mobile Development Enterprises (MDE), my employer until Dec. 31, 2017. Mobile Housing Board awarded the contract. I had nothing to do with the contract and properly disclosed my relationship with Superior Masonry. I did not approve any of its work, performed no day-to-day supervision, did not approve payment, or participate financially with Superior Masonry. Your suggestion that I awarded the contract is factually wrong.
MHB actually awarded three (3) contracts to companies to repair apartments, in addition to an internal MHB team of maintenance workers. I did not serve on the panel that selected the companies. Although my relationship with Superior Masonry was clearly disclosed, HUD stated that MHB should have obtained a waiver before awarding the contract to Superior Masonry. MHB disagreed, relying on the language of the regulation that said it did not apply to maintenance contracts. HUD ignored the language, MHB’s arguments, and found fault with the maintenance contract award.
Lagniappe: Clarke and Seltzer were also listed with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office as incorporating Sun Belt Structures together in 1986.
Clarke – Fact Checker: Sun Belt Structures was incorporated by another member of our family some 32 years ago, but never actually operated. It was not awarded any contract with MHB and is irrelevant to the OIG investigation or its findings.
Lagniappe: Clarke’s initial run for the State House was tainted by questions of whether she would be “double dipping” as an MHB employee working in the Legislature, but she and Vaughn got clearance for her by claiming she worked for MDE and it was separate, something that turned out to be untrue.
Clarke – Fact Checker: Lagniappe’s statement is totally false. In 2013, at the request of a gentleman who had an ax to grind with MHB, a complaint was filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C., arguing that the federal Hatch Act prevented me from running. The Office of Special Counsel determined that I was eligible to run for an open seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. After a thorough investigation, the Office of Special Counsel found that the complaint was without merit, in part, because all of my salary was not paid with federal funds. Therefore, there were no violations of the Hatch Act and I was free to run for office. The ruling, which you barely reported in comparison to your earlier stories, was provided in writing. Lagniappe’s mischaracterization of the opinion is indeed troubling.
Lagniappe: In the wake of HUD’s investigation, Vaughn also argued Clarke’s signature wasn’t on anything regarding Seltzer’s selection and she wasn’t involved in any way. HUD’s report bluntly stated, “We determined that the nonprofit participates in the procurement of the Housing Board’s contractors.”
Clarke – Fact Checker: Lagniappe’s statement is misleading. A review of the documents and interview of witnesses by the OIG clearly showed that I did not see, review or rate proposals from General Contractors to repair MHB apartments. I did not oversee any of their work. The clear inference of your statement was that HUD found that I participated in the selection, supervision or payment of Superior Masonry. This is false and is not supported by anything in the OIG Report. The purported reference to the OIG Report had nothing to do with the maintenance contracts, but was made when discussing the relationship of MDE to MHB.
Lagniappe: Clarke quietly retired from the position this past April and was lauded for her service. She now faces a re-election challenge in November.
Clarke – Fact Checker: My retirement was effective Dec. 31, 2017. In early December, I informed the MHB Board of Commissioners and new executive director that I would retire at the end of 2017. I spent the prior six (6) months assisting with an agency reorganizational plan that included a reduction in staff.
I am very proud of the work I did for Mobile Development Enterprises. I worked countless hours for the sake of MHB residents and the agency. It was an honor and a privilege to serve them. The Board recognized these contributions in April. It is interesting that Lagniappe also notes that I am up for re-election in November 2018. This fact has nothing to do with MHB and was clearly inserted in an effort to negatively influence potential voters.
Lagniappe: People like Adline Clarke are allowed to slip off and retire rather than face any real scrutiny, and lack of information from MHB facilitates that.
Clarke – Fact Checker: Lagniappe’s statement is false. My retirement was a personal decision. I announced my retirement to those whom I had the honor of supervising, after first informing the executive staff and Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners. It was an honor for me to attend the April 2018 meeting of the Board of Commissioners to receive a retirement resolution and plaque, which the Board customarily presents to retirees.
The OIG completed its report in 2016 and, after delving into my professional and personal background, it found no basis to effect by employment. Your attacks on my character are unfounded. I hope they do not stem from your publication’s inability to get the State Legislature to change the law governing the publication of legal notices in newspapers to suit Lagniappe, or my personal decision not to advertise in your publication. That would be a travesty for an organization that purports to be a newspaper.
Adline C. Clarke
Dist. 97 State Representative
From HUD’s OIG report: “We also determined that Mobile Development Enterprises participated in the procurement of Superior Masonry. Its procurement activities included evaluation and selection, and upon selection it worked directly with Superior Masonry to ensure the quality and completion of the task order items. Furthermore, the senior vice president of Mobile Development Enterprises (Clarke) signed the Mobile Development Enterprises contract with the Housing Board that agrees to all construction management activities, including those related to vacancy reduction, which were subsequently carried out by Superior Masonry. The senior vice president’s (Clarke) relationship with the owner of Superior Masonry, and the relationship of the Housing Board and Mobile Development Enterprises create the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
This conflict required MHB to repay HUD $1.2 million in federal funds. The entire OIG report can be read at https://www.hudoig.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2016-AT-1010.pdf
Also, an Attorney General’s Opinion ruled Lagniappe to be a newspaper of public record in 2016 and this newspaper has been selling public notice/legal advertising for nearly two years now.