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Civil grand jury to probe Richmond’s abysmal public housing conditions

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Steve Muccular visits his family at the Hacienda public housing complex in Richmond, Calif. The building’s security guards don’t venture up to the sixth floor, he says, so he squatted in the laundry room for months.

Credit: Lacy Atkins/San Francisco Chronicle

A civil grand jury in the San Francisco Bay Area has begun looking into problems at the Richmond Housing Authority following a series of articles by The Center for Investigative Reporting that exposed systemic mismanagement and negligence.

"This is Home" (Off/Page Project)

The Off/Page Project presents its latest short film, "This is Home," produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting's new report on failures of Richmond, Calif.'s housing authority.

"This is Home" (Off/Page Project)

The Off/Page Project presents its latest short film, "This is Home," produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting's new report on failures of Richmond, Calif.'s housing authority.

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The Contra Costa County civil grand jury is reviewing housing authority documents about tenant complaints, correspondence between tenant representatives and agency officials, and copies of the agency’s annual plan, according to Richmond officials. They also have requested interviews with top agency officials.

The 19 citizen members of the grand jury choose what to investigate each year and usually issue a report after they finish their probe.

The CIR investigation showed that top officials abused agency credit cards, maintenance workers abused overtime, and the current maintenance supervisor is under criminal investigation for improperly steering contracting work to a vendor affiliated with her husband. Meanwhile, residents lived in squalid conditions and said their complaints for help went unheeded.

The foreman for the Contra Costa Grand Jury declined to comment. Tim Jones, the housing authority’s executive director, did not respond to calls for comment.  

The grand jury also requested an interview with CIR about its stories, but we declined. It is CIR’s policy not to discuss unpublished information or questions about our sources.

This is not the first time the grand jury has probed the housing authority. Last year, as part of a broad review of financial controls at agencies across the county, jurors blasted the housing authority for allowing improper credit card use by employees and for improperly spending more than $2 million in federal money.