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Housing Authority Must Stop Secret Board Meetings: New Findings From D.C. Open Government Office

dcogcadmin | April 21, 2016

The D.C. Housing Authority commissioners have for many months met in secret before their regular meetings, without announcement or records, to discuss a range of topics required by law to be heard in open session.

These findings came to light in an opinion letter issued Monday (18) by the District transparency watchdog, Office of Open Government.

The Office in an earlier letter had warned the Authority it faced a lawsuit for not cooperating in the investigation, conduct the Office called “reckless and willful disregard” of the law. That finding was later withdrawn after the agency acknowledged communication failures within its staff and provided necessary documents.

The Housing Authority operates over 50 properties that are home to 20,000 low-income D.C. residents. With affordable housing shrinking in the District, waiting lists in past years have soared.

In addition to the secret sessions, the Office findings included that the board failed to provide the public with records of its regular meetings. The Office, which enforces the Open Meetings Act, made many recommendations for changes and required retraining for staff on the law’s requirements.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint from the D.C. Open Government Coalition, a local nonprofit that has been monitoring District agencies’ compliance with open government laws since 2009. The Coalition will continue its transparency watch, monitoring agency compliance to assure real open government, not just paper promises.