Lingner was unsuccessfully threatened with recall twice and re-elected twice; every time, he drew the support of the city's most well-connected players, from developer Steve Ellman to attorney Paul Gilbert to Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. The guy who ran the shoestring campaign — with shoe leather and $9,000 — managed to raise more than $50,000 to head off the first recall effort against him.

And he didn't just schmooze the developers. He thought about becoming one of them. While on the council, Lingner got licensed as a real estate broker, got a job with a title company, and even started a company, D & J Ventures, to help developers with "land assembly."

Term limits forced Lingner's retirement in December 2007. And though he'd once planned to do some development of his own, by that time, the bottom had dropped out of the local real estate market. He told the Republic that he planned to keep working at the title company and to "continue to be involved at the city, speaking at council meetings like he did while a neighborhood activist."

The Reverend Oscar Tillman says Lingner was "so out of line."
The Reverend Oscar Tillman says Lingner was "so out of line."
Steve Ellman, not known for his interest in low-income housing, became the master developer for the HAMC's $99 million proposal for stimulus funds.
Steve Ellman, not known for his interest in low-income housing, became the master developer for the HAMC's $99 million proposal for stimulus funds.

He never did. Instead, eight months later, he got himself appointed the new director of the Housing Authority of Maricopa County.

The staff there liked someone else: a guy with a master's degree and extensive experience running a housing authority in another state. They thought Lingner "talked a lot, but didn't say very much."

The board of commissioners went with Lingner anyway.

Lingner says the board wanted a change. "They had two clear choices: me or the guy with the hardcore HUD pedigree. They went with me.

"They didn't want me to get involved in politics," he continues. "But they wanted me to take advantage of my political connections to get things done and change the way the HAMC was perceived."

In the 18 months since Lingner has been running the HAMC, New Times' investigation shows, he has repeatedly violated agency policies to enrich himself and his family.

Housing authority bylaws state flatly that "individuals may not be hired if they have a member of their immediate family working at HAMC." Yet records reviewed by New Times show that Lingner himself recommended that his family members be hired in several instances:

• He personally requested that the HAMC hire his brother, Dwayne, to do $2,000 in repairs to the agency carport in the fall of 2008.

• He personally requested that the agency hire his teenage son, Brandon, and his nephew to do $2,000 in cleanup in the agency parking lot after a storm downed several trees in February 2009.

• Lingner hired Brandon Lingner for a desk job some time in late 2009. Brandon, 17, was a "volunteer," but he was eventually hired as a "temp," even as other temps were being let go. In January, he was sent to Las Vegas to be certified as an inspector, although his father says he's back to being a volunteer and that he personally paid for the training.

Finally, Lingner appears to have pulled strings to hire his brother, Dwayne, for more handyman work in June 2009. The agency needed new awnings, so staffers got a $5,875 quote from a Central Phoenix company that manufactures and installs awnings.

Lingner, though, resisted the hire. "I'd like to have Dwayne finish his quote and then we can make an informed decision," he wrote to a staffer in an e-mail obtained by New Times.

When Dwayne Lingner's quote came in just $200 below the awning firm, he was hired, with his brother, Doug, personally authorizing the selection.

Doug Lingner says he never discussed the quote with his brother. After the fact, he says, his brother questioned why he didn't get inside information, telling him he could have used the extra $200. "I didn't supervise him or have any conversations with him about the job," Lingner insists — even though records show he personally used the HAMC credit card to buy materials for his brother's work.

Lingner's penchant for hiring family members may be his most obvious potential legal problem. But New Times' review of records shows that Lingner also has displayed a penchant for hiring friends and steering stimulus money to political supporters.

In June 2009, Lingner hired former Phoenix City Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten and her son, Tom, for $2,500 a month to lobby federal officials on the agency's behalf. Though Bilsten was a close ally of Lingner's on the council, neither she nor her son are registered as federal lobbyists, according to the Federal Elections Commission. They've been paid $32,985 to date.

Tom Bilsten Jr. was also hired, at one point, to do "outreach" work for the HAMC, connecting the agency with the faith-based community, according to his résumé. And both Bilstens are listed as "consultants" on a grant application Lingner filed with the Arizona Department of Housing.

The HAMC hoped to get $8 million in stimulus money to convert a Van Buren hotel to housing for veterans, and the former councilwoman and her husband were slated to "assist in the acquisition of property, coordinate issue resolution related to land use and permits, and provide other support," according to the HAMC's application.

Other than Peggy Bilsten's time on the council, neither Bilsten lists any experience with land use, permits, or property acquisition on their résumé.

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My Voice Nation Help

""We need to find a way to make housing more affordable to more people.""

Utter nonsense. Housing is already dirt cheap.

What we need to do is find a way to make PEOPLE more responsible.

The reason most people spend decades in public housing is because they've been spending their entire life making poor choices, all at public expense. Stop enabling people.


Ellman is up to his neck in the Sheriff's Command Association. I wonder if there is a connection Fenske missed between HAMC and Arpaio's crappy real estate empire? Keep digging, Sarah.

As far as Lingner goes, he will be having some quality times with a HUD OIG agent very soon. Look for charges including Theft of Honest Services and Obstruction.

Bye, Doug.

rick lingner
rick lingner

what goes around comes around , i hope that your brother sees this as well. you never got anything for your dads well so you have to go after the taxes payers money.


With all of the corruption going on in state, local and federal government this is the best you could come up with? The money he doled to his son and relatives is unethical but it really is just chump change. Why is the government even involved with housing in the first place? The last time I read the constitution there was no amendment guaranteeing the right to free or subsidized housing. I've read several of your articles before Ms. Fenske and this one is not your best work. That's allright we all have bad days. Why not take a look at the billions of dollars the governmnent is funneling nationally and the millions of dollars locally that is being funneled to developers, bankers, the community groups, and many other sundry agencies, quasi-agencies, private public partnerships. etc. That's how you'll win your Pulitzer.


Many of those guys are contributors to Arapio's campaigns .. check it out.

James Bailey
James Bailey

Sarah, you should follow up on Casa de Paz I & II (formerly the Roeser apartments at 18th St. & Roeser). They've been HORRIBLY mismanaged for over a year now and I'm guessing some shenanigans have been pulled regarding that project. 100s of people have lost their homes, the mgmnt is not fixing or repairing existing resident's apartments (my friend lives with a huge hole in the roof and ceiling due to a malfunctioning Swamp Cooler!) and the whole apartment complex is slated to be demolished with the existing tenants (all Section 8) being evicted with no place to go!!!

This place has in the past been used by religious types to ShowBoat their concern for the poor so I'm guessing there's some one that's also going to profit handsomely by demoslishing them and buildling some new project with stimulus money.

A lot of my band members (including Michael Jackson's uncle) and other musicians are living under Section 8 housing and I'm concerned about their welfare.

Thank you for your reportage!

BTW - I helped start New Times by passing out copies of the first issue(s) during the Vietnam Era.


How can anyone defend what this economic terrorist is doing. Then again this is Maricopa County. These defenders of Lingner are probably the same ones that defend Sheriff You-Know-Who. The guy is a crook. You don't need a personal vendetta to see that!!


It sure seems odd that some of you readers are trying to make this a 'personal' thing with Ms. Fenske. She wrote a story about something that seems to be a problem by a quasi-governmental agency, funded by taxpayer monies.

From her report it seems to me there needs to be a thorough investigation and resulting action taken.

I don't know the guy in this story. So, it's not personal for me. But it appears he is breaking laws and should be charged for those violations, and removed from office.

Now, how do you make my feelings seem personal?


I'm all about saving my taxes but how much money was this about? A really hard read given Fenske goes back and forth over 15 years and talks about everything from his neighborhood activism to he wears Hawaiian shirts instead of suits and she really seems to hate the guy. This is personal with her!

BTW: Don't businesses have to submit bids to do work for government $s? Fenske even says that Lingner wanted to give the brother time to finish his bid.

Fire the kid, hire the Mom (if she's qualified) and get back to work Doug!


Who do you have to know to get a job at HAMC? Apparently Doug Lingner! Doug, I think I may be your 4th cousin on your moms side, any chance of you hooking me up with a job? Or perhaps I could do some "volunteer" work.


Hey Fenske

It sounds like any employee who photo copies documents right before they get fired, might have know they were deserving of it. I wouldn't trust that kind of employee either. And what did Lingner do to you, it sounds like a personal hatred to bring his personal finances from 20 years ago into it. Some people have hard times...

Hope you always stay flush or some reporter might beat you down...


"The matter is under investigation, he says."

Sarah, does this sound familiar?

Just like the MCSO shurf, if anyone crosses the guy, they become a target of an investigation.

Just like the MCSO shurf, if he is asked a hard question and any documents are requested, "the matter is under investigation".

Where do you suppose Lingner learned this little trick? I wonder what his relationship with the MCSO shurf has been?

SO MANY parallels can be drawn from your report to those known to have occurred with MCSO.

Spank this bitch, Sarah. He apparently deserves it.

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