Maybe there really is a new sheriff in town?
Armando Fana has been at the helm of West Palm Beach’s perennially dysfunctional housing department just weeks. That’s been long enough for him to lay out new rules for contractors: Daily fines for missing repair deadlines. Scrutiny of change order requests. And bids that come over 10 percent of the city’s own repair estimates will be tossed. Fana outlined the tightened requirements and penalties in a recent meeting with editorial board member Stacy Singer. From the news side, two Post reporters and an editor sat in on the Q & A. It was the first time reporters had a chance to get any one-on-one time with Fana, who said he had been swamped and uncomfortable talking to reporters so soon into his new job. New or not, Fana had the unenviable task of responding to a Dec. 14 Post story detailing jaw-dropping examples of how HUD housing repair money has been squandered over the years: $101,000 in repairs ploughed into an $18,000 house. A $199 doorbell repair. A $232 wire closet shelf. And everybody’s favorite: $700 to buy and install 23 lightbulbs. Data editor Kavya Sukumar crunched the crazy numbers and came up with one bright house.
Fana wasn’t responsible for any of it. But he gets to clean up the mess. The former HUD field director said he hasn’t seen anything to date that rose past the level of waste to out-and-out fraud. But then, he also acknowledged the city doesn’t have the staff to do forensic exams of dubious deals. And he would need quite a few staffers: Most files examined by The Post topped three inches or more; a couple filled entire banker’s boxes.