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Beaver County commissioner wants answers about how housing authority spends public's money

Commissioner wants answers about how Beaver County Housing Authority spends public's money
Commissioner wants answers about how Beaver County Housing Authority spends public's money 03:17

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Questions have been raised about how the director of the Beaver County Housing Authority and her board members are spending the public's money.

On Monday, KDKA Investigates found the executive director and board members spend an awful amount of time and money out-of-state. They've taken dozens of trips to glamorous destinations and upscale hotels and conference centers around the county. 

"It looks like an abuse of power as the board there," Beaver County Commissioner Jack Manning said. "And it wouldn't be the first time that some of these boards, whether it's school boards, water authorities and all these have, I think, taken advantage of their position."

KDKA Investigates found director Kathryn Walter and her board have flown all over the country to these conferences at the public's expense. In a right-to-know request, KDKA-TV asked for a detailed accounting of the money spent, but the authority has stonewalled. 

"You've gone to New Orleans, you've gone to Palm Springs, you've gone to San Diego, Chicago. What benefit is this to the tenants?" KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan asked. 

"I will not respond," Walter said. "Thank you."

Responding to KDKA-TV's report, Manning questioned why board members needed to attend these conferences and whether Walter and her staff could get most of the training and information they needed over Zoom. And if they need to attend, Manning said they should stick to conferences in the state. 

"I would no sooner send someone to Phoenix if they can go to Phoenixville," Manning said. "I'm not going to them to California if they can go to California, Pa., or Harrisburg or Penn State for the same kind of information."

However, according to a review of board minutes, Walter has gone to more than 20 conferences in the past 16 months, spending an estimated 50 days out of town — mostly in far-flung destinations. Her board members have often tagged along. As a past president of one of those organizations hosting the conferences, Walter gets some of her costs covered but her board members don't. 

Still, there is little oversight. The authority is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sent KDKA-TV a statement: 

"HUD does not have a rule regarding public housing authority staff travel. Please contact the housing authority if you have additional questions."

The Beaver County commissioners do not oversee the authority's operations, but Manning says he would like some answers. 

"I'm sure we'll have a conversation on this in the near future," Manning said. 

The commissioners do not oversee the housing authority board, but the commissioners do appoint its members. Manning said that gives them some standing to question these trips.

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