The Housing Authority of Maricopa County Fires a Whistleblower

It's not easy to get fired from the Housing Authority of Maricopa County. Just look at the agency's former executive director, Doug Lingner: He misused agency credit cards, hired at least three relatives, and steered work to political cronies, all in his first two years on the job. He still didn't get the ax.

Nope, even after those misdeeds were exposed (by this newspaper) and confirmed (by an agency-hired investigator), the housing authority's board of commissioners allowed Lingner to resign. They also gave him three months' severance, or roughly $25,000.

Now, you might think that they're just nice guys. You might think that they let Lingner off easily because they didn't have the heart to kick a man on his way down.

Janet Belfield
Michael Ratcliff
Janet Belfield

You might think that, that is, until you see what they did to Janet Belfield.

Belfield, a longtime agency employee, is the one who blew the whistle on Lingner. And last week, she was fired by the housing authority. No severance. No chance to resign.

There's not a doubt in my mind that her treatment is directly related to her attempts to expose Lingner.

A 13-year veteran of the housing authority, Belfield declines to discuss exactly whom she talked to regarding Lingner and exactly what she said. She's still appealing her termination; she wants her written appeal to speak for itself.

But the record is clear on three points.

One: Last winter, Belfield reached out to a contact at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides almost all the housing authority's funding. In recent months, that agency has been conducting an on-site investigation — and has publicly blasted housing authority operations under Lingner.

Two: Belfield was also providing information to Tania Huff. Huff had been laid off from the housing authority. Lingner had claimed there was no money to keep her, even as a paid position was being created for his 17-year-old son.

It's Huff who contacted the Reverend Oscar Tillman, president of the local NAACP. Tillman began to push for action from Lingner and then, when he resisted, the board of commissioners.

Huff also went on the record in my earliest exposé of conditions at the housing authority. That cover story directly led to Lingner's being put on leave — and, ultimately, to his forced resignation.

The housing authority under Lingner knew Huff was a problem. And they wanted to know who was giving her information.

Three: By its own accounting, the housing authority terminated Belfield for reasons directly related to her contacts with Huff, HUD, and other outside parties.

The official word is that she was fired for "dishonesty." But here's what Belfield's "dishonesty" amounted to: Questioned by an investigator hired by Lingner, at a time when he was still the agency's director, she claimed she hadn't provided information to ex-employees such as Huff.

Just 11 days later, she came clean. In a meeting with that same investigator, Belfield admitted to all her contacts.

Never mind. She was fired for her initial "dishonesty" last week.

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that Belfield's brief dishonesty wasn't the problem. Not at all.

The problem, I think, was her honesty.

The problem was that she told the truth about Doug Lingner.


Janet Belfield's father was a captain in a small-town police department, a fact she's quick to volunteer. It explains how she sees the world. It also explains why she wasn't content to roll over and let Doug Lingner violate every policy in the housing authority's manual.

"The environment in which I was raised was to do the right thing, and follow the law," she explains. "I was raised to weigh in when speaking up, knowing that there will be consequences."

Belfield came to the housing authority almost 14 years ago. She was hired to be secretary to the director, back when the agency was still part of Maricopa County government. She quickly found herself handling all sorts of unrelated jobs. First, it was human resources, on a part-time basis in addition to her secretarial duties. Then, she became the purchasing agent. Finally, under Lingner, she was named grants writer.

In every case, her bosses sought her out for promotion. She wasn't ambitious. But she was a hard worker. "I loved it," she says simply. "I loved it."

All that started to change in the summer of 2008, when Lingner was hired as the agency's new director. He hadn't been the first choice of staffers — as I reported at the time, they preferred a man with experience in HUD regulations and housing authority work. But thanks in part to Lingner's political ties, the board of commissioners chose him anyway.

Today, people at the housing authority have been trying to dissociate themselves from Lingner, and with good cause: His brief tenure was disastrous.

But while Lingner was director, he got his way. When, for example, he decided to get his 17-year-old son a paid position at the housing authority — in clear violation of the agency's anti-nepotism policy — employees raised only nominal concerns, according to a report from the agency's investigator.

Rather than complain to commissioners, in fact, the agency's human resources director actually figured out a scheme in which the teenager could be paid off the books. That cost the agency more than it would've had Brandon Lingner been hired outright, because his hiring came through a temp agency — which tacked on its surcharge to his hourly rate.

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34 comments
Bllcorwin
Bllcorwin

This is a big problem with all of our government agencies. We are being hoodwinked from every angle no a days.

brownie1
brownie1

All that typing you are doing...please always insert cc: the governor, our U.S. President, our U.S. Congress, our U.S. House of Representatives, our local Mayor...etc....every branch of government needs a copy of this because they need to be informed...as for the whistle blower...He/She did the right thing. We cannot be afraid of criminals in this country...turn them in and hit their pocket $$$$$$ They are a menace to our USA.

chubby
chubby

Kate Baker is a hired whore by Maricopa County. She has screwed several County employees by exploiting and embellishing on technical violations. She will lie and submit whatever the County politicians want her to, in order to save her hefty private county contract. Next her case will go to an Administrative hearing in front of another judge who wont hear a word she or her attorney has to say. usually another ALJ Judge who is in bed with them

sarum
sarum

Nothing new here. And the corruption is not limited to Arizona. Government is corrupt from top to bottom and has been for a painfully long time. The only thing new here is that a whistleblower is getting some news coverage and possibly some restitution as a result. Government employees face criminal choices every day. It is the rule not the exception. So for those that read this and say - not I - thank your lucky stars - your situation is rare.

Pete
Pete

Corruption rule in Maricopa County.

Grandmaguy8
Grandmaguy8

Maybe some one should look into all the people on the houseing program also. Some of those people should not be in low rent houseing in the first place.

Noemi
Noemi

I am happy to have had the opportunity to work and meet Janet. She is honest and have a big heart. I feel sorry for people that did it to her. Janet, thand for you friendship.

Truth Be Told
Truth Be Told

Lingner, with assistance from his deputies, diverted public funds to benefit himself, his family, his friends, and a few colleagues. Now that he is gone, these same collegues are still in charge and entrusted to lead the Agency. Janet Belfied is to be commended for standing up against these people but the resulting factor is retaliation at its worst form.

Ashley
Ashley

hmmmm? Shouldn't all this money that is being spent on what appears to be more corruption, be spent on what it is truely designed for........helping a family in need with housing? We have children living in the streets and these kind of people (the corrupt employees who are making these greedy acts.) are in charge. This is the exact thing that is destroying our country, those who have the power and authority are using it for their own financial gain and/or wasting tax dollars that should be helping america as though it's not their money.......oh, that's right, its not their money, its the tax payers. Why would we (americans) expect them to do the best they can do to help and distribute these funds for what they are designed for when they can take their authority and fatten their own pockets and abuse their powers to control things for their best interest and desires? It's those 'in charge' abusing their position like this, that continually destroy our country little by little until their is no more. What a shame.I can't help but wander if there is not something more going on behind the scenes with Karen Mofford, the HR department and/or others supporting Lingner. Could more money and corruption be involved? Maybe an audit should be preformed. Are these funds that are designed to help those in need being abused in others forms? I would be willing to bet they are. Why are these people in charge?

Wizard of Oz
Wizard of Oz

Not to fear. The truth will become self-evident when the Phoenix HUD Office delivers their report mentioned in an earlier blog. The light that will shine as a result will be striking.

so sad
so sad

I cant believe this is happening to her. No one at HAMC will stand up for what she did for fear of retaliation and fear of loosing their job. Im sure many people are relieved Doug is gone but still fear Laura & Karen. Janet, stay strong. You did the right thing.

Chicano Surfer
Chicano Surfer

yes you will be missed. I used to work for the city of glendale. And the HR department helped my former department for standing up to them. Because they applied so much pressure I physically had to resign. I loved my job then. But a employee was demoted by my supervisor for a new less time temp position and told to accept it or have no job because now how dare she be pregnant. She is a legal latin american immigrant. And with our climate of no real toleration for this group he used it. Then she was bullied by a female assistant director to remove herself from me. Even though you can have anyone help represent you. They used an email to fabricate something because how dare I help do the right thing. The stress from all this become so unbearable I literally thought I was dying. My doctors' where also very concerned and suggested me to leave.So yes! You are right to be a whistleblower in Phoenix,AZ means a death sentence for your job. It is easy when you can get the backing of HR to find something. Even though in government they are to be there for everyone. I loved my friends and job. Would I do it again? Knowing the outcome? Yes! I was raised when someone ask for your help you stand up and help. My mom, dad, and so many others in my family have. It's what you do. Thank You so much for being here for people like Miss Belfield. Take Care and God Bless YOU;-)

HR Pro
HR Pro

Karen Mofford and whoever is giving the Housing Authority legal and HR advice should be immediately fired - such incredible incompetence just blows my mind. Janet, hang in there. You did the right thing.

Now, someone out there, please step up and offer Janet a new career so she doesn't have to go back to that dysfunctional environment.

Ivant94
Ivant94

The Dept. of Fire, Building & Life Safety (DFBLS) a State of Arizona agency has very similar fraudulent practices that have resulted in the Deputy Director (unlicensed attorney) of Office of Manufactured Housing, fired for misappropriating $1.3 million dollars of the consumers money, and the Director demoted for incompetence. He recently was appointed the CEO of a newly created non-profit business called the Arizona Center for Public Service Excellence, a cooperative venture by the Arizona Fire Services Institute (AFSI) and the Arizona State Fire Training Committee, and still employed by the State of Arizona which violates Conflict of Interest Laws. Other Conflict of Interest Laws were violated when family members were hired at this agency and received excessive raises of 35% and more. Temporary workers 3-4 at a time were employed and paid exorbitant salaries ($12,000 per month) while lay-offs were used to cover up the crimes.

Jayne
Jayne

Funny,,,the same thing happened at the DFBLS but NOBODY has done anything about it...they were spending money that belonged to the consumer and even gave themselves raises out of that fund. The 2 people that turned them in got RIF'd one of them got fired and the one in charge of the agency got demoted! Hmmmmm....how come some people get away with it and others get punished!

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Honesty can be such a bitch at times. But in the end, normally, those who are honest will win the war. My most heartfelt congratulations to Sarah. I was hoping to one day be able to shake her hand and say I got to meet her. St. Louis is getting a star.

Pete
Pete

I hope you are going taking them to court.

Dfactor
Dfactor

The best writer at the New Times is leaving. Our loss, Sarah's gain. As a newcomer here in the last 2 1/2 years, you've helped me gain perspective on what a wacky region of the world I'm now living in... thank you!

Andrew Shee
Andrew Shee

Sara- really am going to miss your focus on AZ. I hope that Texas is good to you. I would extend and invitation to stay but as much as I (we) hate losing you, we all wish you the best. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in the land where the stars at night-are big and bright !

LOL Lots OF Love

EnoughisEnough
EnoughisEnough

Sarah-Hopefully she will sue and ask for records of computer activity by all the others in the office...

On your leaving, I was not a frequent reader of NT until the Arpiao - Thomas comdey act started. Great job exposing these idiots.

NT editors - bring in the reported from OC who exposed that sheriff - who has been convicted and sentenced...he did a great job exposing the corruption in the OC Sheriffs office...

Heroine
Heroine

Seems like Doug Lingner is still running the show at the Agency. If dishonesty got Belfield fired, then why are his deputies (Mofford and the HR person) still making decisions for the Agency? Their actions by scheming with Lingner enabled him to almost destroy the Agency constitute a more serious offense than the trumped up charge that Belfield received. Janet, you are a hero for speaking out and we're proud of you. Sarah, another excellent piece of journalism. Good luck!

Good for You
Good for You

Janet, I'd like to congratulation good both for your integrity and for the cash windfall that will be coming your way! It must be great to know that the Housing Authority will soon be making you quite wealthy. Come on back to the County - we love you!

pamfila
pamfila

Have you seen that ALJ Judge in bed with them, with your own eyes???? Be honest, because if you have proof, you will be heard....Please be very careful with gossip...We will believe your accusations if you can present the evidence....hmmmm, something to think about....

Chicano Surfer
Chicano Surfer

your right about submitting what there client needs. Understand it no longer is about what is right but what you can get away with legally. Even if you prove your side a Bad Judge will tend side with the bad stuff. If your lucky someone from the other side may help you. Now that opens your eyes to seeing it's what you can get away with legally is more important then what is right, wow! And imagine if you can't afford a lawyer or one will not help you because it's not worth there time and expense. Your forced to place your head back in the said and oh well it was meant to be. Thank you for seeing and opening your eyes.

pamfila
pamfila

If you are accusing that the Arizona Government is corrupt, where is your PROOF???? Please be prepared with your proof when present in a court of law. You will be listened to, and if you can prove your heavy accusations, there will be some action. Otherwise, your words are only going up in the air....

pamfila
pamfila

Be careful when you are pointing fingers; you know very well that illegals are committing crimes on a daily basis, ring a bell????stealing other citizens' , law abiding citizens who purchase their yearly license plate stickers, only to have some illegal alien steal it so that when a police officer is driving behind them, will think that they are law abiding citizens because they have a current and up to date sticker on their stolen possibly vehicle....Please be very careful as to what you are saying because YOU will be asked in a court of law for proof; also, your record better be clean...They will listen to you then, and only then....C'mon grow up....we are facing illegals coming into our country and destroying the values of this country, and we do have PROOF....

pamfila
pamfila

Yes, many are lying to housing, and know how to manipulate the system, why???? because they are corrupt, want everything FREE, only time will tell everything, because remember we do have those computers; they will forget along the line and the computer can pick up ssi#s, addresses, names, telephone #s..etc.... The proper thing to do is to always tell the truth; then, you will never be in any types of problems...catch the drift????

Ivant94
Ivant94

Employees like Janet are the winners. Let's expose all of the corruption in county, city and state government. Go Janet.

pamfila
pamfila

Right on Chicano Surfer, because the only one who sees everything, even behind closed doors, is God....just thinking that someone did something because it is in our minds can bring cancer into your body...the body that you love so much...hatred, gossip, lies, cheating....the list goes on and on...all goes through your brain and travels throughout your body, and eventually, bringing a cancerous tumor because you allowed it into your body....

tired of it
tired of it

Perhaps a study of the number of Hispanic police officers, undercover agents, etc are gunned down/murdered by the illegals, and make it news, would get more of the law abiding hispanic citizens to protest for what is right!

Ivan200
Ivan200

When one finger is pointed against another, there are 3 that are pointed at yourself. Sounds like someone DOES have proof of allegations and the courts are not the only place where it will come forward. That is the nice thing about freedom of speech.

pamfila
pamfila

Even those corrupt lawyers die of the cancer they allowed into their own bodies, due to hatred, racism, greed, .....

 
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