The Winchester Housing Authority’s former executive director’s pension is under review after State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump released an 18-page audit report that details more than a dozen occasions when Joseph M. Lally “may have been providing legal services to clients while on the clock at the authority.”
Lally, 59, who maintained a full-time career as a practicing attorney working for the publicly funded Committee for Public Counsel Services while serving as Winchester’s housing chief, abruptly resigned from his position as the authority’s executive director on Oct. 5 after coming under fire by the state auditor’s office for filing conflicting time cards showing him in court when he claimed to be doing work for the housing authority.
According to Karen Manchuso, administrator for the Winchester Contributory Retirement Board, Lally is receiving his pension payments while the matter is under review. His pension is about $45,000 per year, she said.
She said the Winchester retirement board is scheduled to review the state auditor’s findings with its attorney, Thomas F. Gibson, at its meeting on Thursday.
Lally applied for his pension on Oct. 12 — a week after he resigned.
“Any pension adjustment would have to come through the oversight of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission,” Gibson said, referring to the state agency that oversees pensions of those who do not fall under the purview of cities and towns. Gibson noted that the commission’s executive director, Joseph E. Connarton, “was aware of the pending audit.”
Gibson said that he e-mailed a copy of the audit report, which was released Tuesday, to the Winchester retirement board Wednesday morning and would be reaching out to Connarton to discuss it.
Reached at his office late Wednesday, Connarton said he had just received the audit report but had not yet had a chance to go through it.
“I intend to review it with our audit staff and legal people,” Connarton said. “We will be making a recommendation to the Winchester retirement board within weeks.”
State auditors examined two years of payroll records, from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2011, and found 18 occasions when Lally was recorded working at the authority while simultaneously charging the state for court appearances as public counsel for indigent clients.
The Committee for Public Counsel Services is conducting its own investigation into the potential double billing.
The state audit also found that in each of the years examined, Lally logged more than 3,500 work hours for the two agencies combined. The report noted that more than 20 percent of Lally’s time working at the authority was spent outside normal business hours.
“This audit does not only raise questions of the former executive director’s honesty, but also his management of the authority,” said Bump in a written statement. “For a staff to be properly guided and the needs of its tenants met, the housing authority deserves a leader who is not absent a quarter of the time.”
The audit reports Lally earned $158,444 in calendar year 2010: $68,483 from the Winchester Housing Authority and $89,961 from the Committee for Public Counsel Services. In 2011, the figures were $72,205 from the authority and $84,004 from public counsel services for a total of $156,209.
The audit report also noted that the authority’s operating reserves in fiscal 2011 were significantly underfunded — $49,499 below minimum levels set by the state — and that several rental units contained state sanitary code violations, including roof deterioration, exterior siding falling off, peeling paint, and ceiling water stains.
Bump called on the Winchester Housing Authority to amend its executive director’s contract to specify the days and hours required to be worked, restore adequate emergency funds, and make timely and complete repairs on units as needed.
According to Laura Glynn, chairwoman of the authority, the agency is addressing each of those issues.
Rents on the authority’s units range from zero to $940 per month, Glynn said, because the agency is limited in what it can charge its tenants. Rents can be no more than 30 percent of a resident’s income, she said.
“The WHA is looking to increase its reserves and is applying for any additional state funding we could possibly qualify for,” said Glynn, who had not yet seen the audit report when reached at her home Tuesday evening.
Glynn said the contract for Lally’s replacement, John W. Hurd of Arlington, specifies the hours he is expected to work. Hurd began working in Winchester on March 1.
The authority in fiscal 2011 had an approved operating budget of $552,397 and supplied 119 units of public housing.