Education in Oakland

Cleaning House

Posted by novometro on July 7, 2006

There are probably a number of current and former employees of the Oakland Housing Authority who wish that the police never caught Carolyn Wilson in Louisiana on Thursday.

Ms. Wilson is charged with accepting money from tenants in exchange for ignoring a waiting list and illegally placing them in low-income housing in East Oakland. She fled to Louisiana late last year, after supervisors questioned one of the fishy placements. Rumor had it she was working for FEMA near New Orleans.

The dollar amounts Ms. Wilson allegedly took from tenants were low. The largest was around $1,000. The entire scam, which people familiar with the case say ran from August to November of last year, could not have earned her much more than  $10,000. Given the housing crisis in Oakland, she might have chiseled more from poor people desperate for a place to stay. One wonders if Ms. Wilson, described by some as a “low-level clerk,” was the only Housing Authority employee cheating the people she was paid to serve.

It’s a question she will likely have to answer now that she is in jail, and soon will be on her way back to Oakland.

To be sure, the Oakland Housing Authority receives high marks from the federal office of Housing and Urban Development, which provides the agency with the bulk of its $187 million annual budget. But at least one supervisor who worked above Ms. Wilson at the Housing Authority’s East Oakland office is now working somewhere else.

If the Oakland Housing Authority has its way, around 30 tenants who moved into Lockwood Gardens with Ms. Wilson’s help will be living somewhere else. The Housing Authority is paying lawyers to evict them, claiming that they knew that the money they gave Ms. Wilson allowed them to jump ahead on a long waiting list.

Once the Housing Authority sent out letters in April telling the tenants they were facing eviction, some chose to leave. Others, at least 20, are fighting. The next hearing in the eviction case is in August.


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