HUD: Upcoming Rolling Hills visit to restore ‘public trust by identifying fraud’

Community volunteers distribute food to children at Rolling Hills. (photo by Jordan Green)

The purpose of an upcoming inspection of Rolling Hills Apartments in Winston-Salem by the US Department of Housing & Urban Development is “to provide information to help ensure safe, decent and affordable housing; and to restore the public trust by identifying fraud, abuse and waste of HUD resources.”

Details about the purpose of the inspection, scheduled for late September, came in a prepared statement yesterday in response to an ongoing inquiry by Triad City Beat in light of allegations by a former employee that the owner of the housing complex defrauded the government by under-reporting vacancies in Section 8 units.

Following an inspection earlier this year, the owner, New Jersey-based Aspen Companies, boasted that Rolling Hills received a passing score of 80 percent. The score raised eyebrows in light of recent disclosures by the city of Winston-Salem that the site has racked up almost 650 housing code violations, involving 94 out of 110 units, since June 1, although HUD said in a prepared statement yesterday that its “inspection parameters… may not necessarily correlate with the multitude of varying city codes….”

Joseph J. Phillips, a HUD spokesperson in the agency’s Atlanta regional office, said the upcoming review of Rolling Hills will be “an inspection of the physical conditions of sample units.”

Phillips said the agency concluded a new inspection was necessary after the HUD North Carolina Multifamily Housing Office visited Rolling Hills in mid-August. Gene A. Smith, a former maintenance supervisor, alleges that the property manager for Rolling Hills told HUD representatives that there were two vacancies. Smith told TCB that after the HUD representatives left he conducted a manual count and determined that, in fact, there were 13 vacancies. The Aspen Companies has said the claim is “categorically false.”

As previously reported by TCB Smith notified a HUD employee in the Greensboro field office that he had been fired after speaking with her and in a subsequent email told her: “There’s a lot of lies being told at Rolling Hills by management.”

Smith said he did not the HUD employee, Eileen R. Wooten, did not respond to his emails, but he received a phone call from her supervisor over the following weekend. He said the supervisor, Dottie Troxler, asked him not to mention her name.

The statement provided by Phillips to TCB also said, “HUD takes reports of fraud seriously and the HUD Office of Inspector General’s mission is to prevent waste, fraud, abuse and serious mismanagement by HUD’s customers, employees, contractors and other vendors associated with the housing industry in public housing, multifamily, single family, community programs and the mortgage industry.”

This story will be updated as new information comes to light.