8News Investigates: Casino Trip Paid For with Public Funds - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

8News Investigates: Casino Trip Paid For with Public Funds

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RICHMOND (WRIC) - Acting on a viewer tip, 8News has been investigating the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority for months and we've found your tax dollars being spent on an out of state trip to a casino.

The Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia is a place Richmond Housing Commissioner Marilyn Olds apparently likes to visit.

8News obtained an invoice with her name on it from May 5th, 2012 booking a charter with Newton Bus Service between Richmond and Charles Town, West Virginia – a total cost of $1,515.

Then there are two checks, paid by the Creighton Court Tenant Council, of which Commissioner Olds is the president. They're made out to Newton Bus Service and total $1,515.

The money used for the bus trip came from the Federal Dept. Of Housing and Urban Development and according to HUD's latest funding agreement with RRHA, the money should be used for "activities and events such as - holiday programs - that create a positive living environment for residents."

Wanting to know how a casino trip creates a positive living environment, 8News took what we uncovered to other RRHA board members.

"I don't know any of the details so it would be inappropriate for me to say anything other than we'll look at it," says Commissioner Frank Hall.

The person who does know the details is the Housing Authority's $178,000 a year CEO Adrienne Goolsby, but the highly paid public employee also does not want to discuss the gambling trip taxpayers footed the bill for.

"I don't have any comment," she says.

Goolsby has known about the casino trip since last October when an internal email 8News obtained, sent from the RRHA's former Chief Financial Officer, to Goolsby discusses a recent audit finding.

It says the trip involved 55 passengers and was to a casino.

According to a document the RRHA gave 8News, Creighton Tenant Council passed its audit and in a letter to Olds, the RRHA only mentions it found "insufficient detail of financial records."

However the internal document, provided by sources, tells a different story.

It shows Creighton "did not pass" it's 2012 audit and in fact has failed several audits in recent years.

AJ Lagoe: "The RRHA paid to send people to a casino. Is that something you feel is appropriate?"

Adrienne Goolsby: "As I stated, when you receive the FOIA request you'll have that information."

That's an ironic response since the RRHA refused to release most of the documents asked for in our Freedom of Information request including the audit detailing just what insufficient financial records were uncovered.

In a letter to 8News, RRHA Attorney Michelle Walller writes the casino trip "was inappropriate and unfortunate" but "did not violate HUD regulations" and there's "no pattern of abuse."

However a 2012 independent audit finds "noncompliance" and "significant deficiency" in HUD issued tenant funding. It shows potential expenditures for "personal items."

The HUD funding agreement between with the RRHA clearly says the RRHA has the responsibility to ensure funds are used for "approved activities." CEO Adrienne Goolsby refuses to say if she feels a casino trip is an approved activity.

No one is talking about how $1500 of taxpayer money was spent to take an RRHA commissioner and 54 residents of public housing on a casino trip.

However, HUD spokesman Jerry Brown says in an email they're launching a comprehensive review.

He writes:  "Our team's review will encompass not only the trip but other actions that may have taken place over the past 10 years."

 

Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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