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City workers in home-repair probe retire

Officials had been cited for mismanagement

Three employees who helped oversee the city of Atlanta's scandal-plagued home-repair program retired Sept. 7 on the heels of an administrative investigation that cited them for serious mismanagement that resulted in shoddy work to homes owned by low-income elderly and disabled residents.

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Two separate investigations — one by the city's law department and the other by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — uncovered significant problems with the program. A HUD report concluded there were "systemic deficiencies" that "did not conform to acceptable industry practices."

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The city's investigation was forwarded to HUD, which funds the program and could pursue a criminal investigation. HUD spokeswoman Linda Allen says the recent retirements won't affect its review of the investigation.

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The three employees in the Bureau of Housing — Alexander Brown, Cheryl Williams and Julius Milton — had been on paid administrative leave prior to their retirement. Two other employees cited in the report — Glenn Gordon and Wilbert Allen — have also retired.

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Clair Muller, a 17-year City Council veteran who held office under both Maynard Jackson and Bill Campbell, says the public announcement of the investigation was a sharp, and refreshing, break with a long City Hall tradition of quietly sweeping such scandals under the rug.

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She says she finds the report troubling. "If it was more than a case of mismanagement of funds," Muller says, "then the employees involved should be prosecuted."

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In late August, the three employees met with Department of Planning and Community Development commissioner Steven Cover. Several days later, all three retired. They signed papers stating they wouldn't sue the city or talk about the arrangement in exchange for their retirement benefits.

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"All I can say is that it was against my will," said one, who asked not to be identified. "I wasn't ready."



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