A judge left little room Thursday for the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) to continue with immediate evictions of tenants it claims illegally moved into public housing by bribing a rogue clerk.
The ruling is a setback for the OHA, which sought to evict around 20 people from the Lockwood Gardens in East Oakland after discovering that Carolyn Wilson, a housing authority employee, allegedly charged up to $1,000 for the keys to subsidized apartments reserved for poor families.
While the OHA receives high marks from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development in annual audits, the Wilson case has been something of an embarrassment to the agency. Ms. Wilson fled to Louisiana shortly after her bosses confronted her with evidence of her crimes in 2005. But in June, deputies from the Sheriff’s Department in Saint Tammany Parish arrested her. She is now in jail in Covington, Louisiana fighting extradition to California, where she faces charges of computer fraud and misappropriation of public funds.
The Alameda County Superior Court judge’s decision allows the tenants to stay in their apartments, but the validity of their leases remains a question for the court to answer. David Lipsetz, a spokesman for the OHA, said that the OHA does not recognize the people who moved into Lockwood Gardens with Ms. Wilson’s help as tenants. Their rent checks are returned. He said the agency will move forward with proving the leases are invalid with the aim of eviction.