Doug Lingner Investigation: Sarah Fenske's Reporting on Now-Former Maricopa County Housing Authority Chief Bears Fruit

Our sadly departed (from this newspaper, not from the planet) colleague Sarah Fenske wrote a humdinger of a story earlier this year about all manner of fiscal wrongdoing and blatant nepotism inside the Housing Authority of Maricopa County.

Here is that story, after which Fenske followed up with columns and blog items that solidified her findings.

The piece eviscerated then-executive director Doug Lingner, a former Phoenix city councilman under whose two-year watch the agency went to pieces.

According to Fenske, "[Lingner has] repeatedly flouted agency bylaws and, in some cases, may have violated the law. Its not just that the housing authority has become a stomping ground for Lingner's friends and family, although that's certainly the case. And it's not just that much of the federal stimulus money administered by the agency is going to Lingner's friends and political supporters. That's true, too.

"And it isn't even only that Lingner has wasted tax dollars on perks for himself. (A New Times review of housing authority credit card statements shows that, even as government agencies across the country tighten their belts, Lingner has treated himself to lunches, valet parking, and travel to Las Vegas.)

"It's all of the above."

Lingner resigned a few months after Fenske's first story, though he left kicking, screaming, and unrepentant.

His reign was a disaster, a fact that became ever clearer yesterday when the county Board of Supervisors took over control of the troubled county agency in the aftermath of findings by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of serious mismanagement. 

The agency's mission is to provide affordable housing for poor folks. HAMC's about 50 employees manage nine low-income apartment complexes around the Valley and perform many other tasks.

Its annual budget certainly isn't rinky-dink: about $20 million, plus millions more in federal stimulus money added earlier this year.

From HUD's report of its findings: "The review has revealed a history of unsatisfactory performance in financial, procurement, governance, and personnel areas."

That's a bureaucratic way of concurring with just about everything Fenske published nearly a year ago -- the overt nepotism, frivolous spending in a time of terrible economic crisis, ridiculously unprofessional operational practices, and more.

The words arrogance and stupidity immediately come to mind -- and we're thinking of Doug Lingner at the moment.

Here is today's Arizona Republic story on the goings-on written by reporter Yvonne Wingett.

As for Sarah Fenske, she is now managing editor of one of our sister papers, the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, where she no doubt is wreaking havoc.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin