2021 | Government

UPDATED: Report finds no wrongdoing by housing agency executive director

Inspector general looked into complaint alleging Spann violated ethics rules

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This story was updated at 1:20 p.m. June 16, 2021, to clarify that Del. Al Carr provided a copy of his complaint to Bethesda Beat. It was not released by the inspector general’s office. The complaint included specific names and businesses, but the inspector general’s report did not identify them.

Outgoing Housing Opportunities Commission Executive Director Stacy Spann did not violate ethics rules related to awarding contracts, according to a new report by the county’s inspector general.

Also, there was no evidence that an HOC commissioner failed to disclose a conflict on a disclosure form, the inspector general found.

Del. Al Carr (D-Kensington) filed a complaint in late March to Inspector General Megan Davey Limarzi’s office. The complaint alleged a “lack of transparency and integrity in the Commission’s oversight of its Executive Director.”

Carr provided Bethesda Beat a copy of his complaint this week.

Carr said that Spann awarded a contract to Village Settlements, a firm where HOC Commissioner Jackie Simon’s son worked in November 2012, and one to Simon in November 2013 when she was an applicant for the HOC board. Carr alleged these were conflicts of interest, and added that Simon did not disclose this information on her financial disclosure forms.

Carr’s complaint listed specific names and businesses. The inspector general’s report did not identify them.

Spann, whose last day with the HOC is July 30 as he takes another job, was also accused by Carr of failing to disclose outside employment or membership on any boards, a violation of county law.

But Limarzi said the contract awards followed HOC’s proper procurement policies regarding competition and dollar threshold.

She added in her report that Spann did not earn any salary as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, and was appointed to the board of directors of the Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County without that board’s knowledge. He resigned when notifying board members of his position with HOC. 

“Both factors would have negated the Executive Director’s responsibility to list their affiliations on annual disclosure forms,” the report said about Spann’s outside employment. 

The Housing Opportunities Commission, the public housing agency for Montgomery County, says it is “a government organization that administers federal, state, county, and private affordable housing programs.”

In an interview, Spann declined to comment on the inspector general’s report, aside from the fact it showed there was no wrongdoing.

Attempts to reach Simon Monday were unsuccessful. HOC Board Chair Roy Priest could not be reached for comment by phone Monday.

In his letter to Limarzi, Carr also alleged several other examples of wrongdoing by Spann and the HOC.

It stated that Simon, when she was chair of the commission, awarded Spann a salary increase and bonus in late June 2019 “without … quarterly performance review meetings taking place.”

Carr also alleged the commission violated the state’s Open Meetings Act multiple times, but Limarzi said the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board had already ruled on those matters.

Carr also alleged Spann was withholding information about the contracts between the HOC, Simon and her son from the public, unless the agency received over $700 for retrieving those records. Carr said the forms were “in the public interest,” making the fees excessive.

Limarzi’s report said her agency did not look into Spann not waiving fees because the state’s Public Information Act allows agencies to charge to gather and produce records.

Carr also said in his complaint that Spann did not obtain the proper permits or permission from Montgomery County Government to pave green space near the former Kensington Elementary School at 10400 Detrick Ave. — HOC’s current headquarters. Carr alleged that Spann lied to the County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee that the area was “rocks.”

The complaint also stated that Spann spent tens of thousands of dollars on a generator without providing any documented need, and despite HOC’s plans to move within the next few years. 

The inspector general did not look into those allegations, as the County Council had discussed the green space paving, and a generator purchase could be allowed, the report stated.

Spann, HOC’s executive director since 2012, is leaving at the end of July to become CEO of MidCity, a Bethesda-based real estate company.

He said in an interview that the opportunity to lead MidCity is a good career move.

“It is a career opportunity. The HOC has an incredible team and incredible platform. … In the life of one’s career, you seem to take opportunities that make sense and for me, this one makes sense,” Spann said. 

He added he wasn’t specifically looking for other employment, but declined to offer other details on why he was leaving.

Spann said there are no immediate plans for MidCity to work with HOC in the future.

“I don’t have a plan to do business with HOC,” Spann said. “They’re obviously both in the affordable housing industry, [but] we at HOC have never done any transactions with MidCity, [and] aren’t engaged with any partnerships.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com