Sunday, November 24, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 9

What could have the McHenry County Housing Authority have done differently? What should it have done differently?

First of all, it should have taken the tenant's complaint seriously. The employees of the MCHA seem to have "circled the wagons" and made up their minds. Once "they" decided that pawn shop loans were "income", they were not going to back down.

Even when I quoted HUD Regulations to them and pointed out that the Tenant was not engaged in a business of "pawn shop loans" and certainly was not an employee of the pawn shop, they should have asked themselves the question, "Could the Tenant be right?"

When I suggested to the Executive Director to get an opinion from a CPA, that fell on deaf ears. What would a CPA have said? "Are you kidding me?" I guess they wanted to avoid that embarrassment.

But they should have re-read the HUD Regulations, especially the part about "net income", not gross income. Even if they didn't know what the difference was, it should have caused them to inquire about it. And they should have made an effort to understand what short-term collateralized loans really are.

The Housing Authority must have, or know, a CPA.

The problem was compounded by the unwillingness of the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners to recognize the error in gross income vs. net income. And, as a banker of 35 years' experience, he should have known in a heart beat that short-term collateralized loans are not income.

Further, the Executive Director was wrong when she said that many of the pawn shop loans had not been redeemed. As a matter of fact, all of them were redeemed. But, even if none had been redeemed, that would not have caused loan proceeds to become income.

The Housing Specialist and the Housing Supervisor should be required to attend trainings by HUD in how to understand and apply Regulations.

How many other Tenants of the MCHA have been harmed by staff mistakes?

Many Section 8 tenants do not have the resources to challenge errors successfully. Some of them might assume that the staff should know the rules and regulations and they would apply them correctly. Now we know that they don't know some of the Regulations and they don't apply them correctly.

And, worse, they dug in their heels when challenged.

If you know any clients of the MCHA who has been treated unfairly, let me know. As I have said many times, "I am not a lawyer, but ..." 

Write to

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 8

An appeal beyond the Executive Director should never have been necessary. But her statement that they "always use Gross Income" told me that she did not understand the difference between earned income (wages) and business income (which has gross income, expenses and net income).

On October 25 I mailed a letter to the Chicago Regional Office of HUD, explaining the complaint and enclosing copies of the Housing Specialist's determination of the reduction in assistance and the Hearing Officer's Decision, which completely - and incorrectly - upheld the position of the MCHA.

I estimated that my letter would be delivered on Monday, and so I waited until Tuesday to call.

I was fortunate to be connected with an official at the regional office. A few minutes after our conversation, his administrative assistant told me that my letter had been received, and I asked if she would take it right in to the official.

The help from that official was outstanding. He undertook investigation of the complaint personally and immediately. Two days later he called the MCHA Executive Director and explained that pawn shop loans were NOT income. That was Thursday, October 31.

Let's be clear. He did not over-ride HUD Regulations. He explained the HUD Regulations.

And still the MCHA malingered in correcting the problem. They only needed to do at least two things.

  1. Adjust the monthly assistance to the correct amount for November; and
  2. Issue a check for the amount that had been improperly withheld from the September and October rent assistance.

MCHA is a small agency. I'm sure the employee group is a close-knit group. I'm sure they all want to get along well.

And, when they screw up, they should fix the problem quickly. The Executive Director could have ordered the correction and the preparation of the adjustment check that Thursday. Instead, they claimed they had to wait for the letter from the Regional HUD Office. And wait they did.

But the tenant finally was able to pick up the adjustment check, and the MCHA paid the correct amount of rent assistance for the November 1st rent.

Tomorrow - look for my comments about how this should have been handled at the MCHA office in Woodstock or at least upon escalation to the Board of Commissioners.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 7

When should a Board of Directors intervene in the operation of an agency it directs?

Its function is to direct the agency, not "manage" the agency. But when it is informed that the agency is not being properly managed, then the correct duty of the Board is to investigate and determine whether, in fact, the agency has been mismanaged and, if it has, then its duties is to direct corrective action.

Is that what happened when the Board of Commissioners of the McHenry County Housing Authority was informed of the errors and conduct of employees of the Authority and even of the error of a hearing officer? Did the MCHA retain an impartial, independent, unbiased, unaffiliated hearing officer? Or did it "stack the deck"?

When the Executive Director refused to consider an appeal of the hearing officer's Decision, which merely rubber-stamped the errors made by employees, I contacted the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Keith Leathers.

Leathers is Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending for Home State Bank. According to his bio on the Home State Bank website, he has been on the Board of Commissioners of the McHenry County Housing Authority for 18 years. With 35 years of commercial banking expertise and as a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you'd think he would immediately realize that a short-term collateralized loan was not "income". It might be reasonable to assume that he would have at least some familiarity with HUD Regulations or know where to look quickly in the Regs for a particular question.

In his October 24, 2019 response Leathers advised that MCHA staff is certified and experienced in the programs they administer. He stated that "While the use of "pawn shops" is not a usual source of income it is not excluded from HUD regulations."

What he did not say, and could not say, was the the use of pawn shops was included as income in HUD Regulations. Because it's not. Furthermore, it's not any source of income. A pawn shop loan is not income. How could a graduate of the UW-M Graduate School of Banking not know that?

The MCHA was treating the making of pawn shop loans as a business. And, even so, it was considering only the proceeds of the loan received. It disregarded the repayment of the loan. 

First of all, it wasn't a business, at all. And even if it had been, HUD Regulations call for the determination of Net Income. The MCHA Executive Director told me they use only Gross Income. I recognized that she was most likely referring to Wages, not Business Income. It also seemed that she did understand the difference between Gross Business Income and Net Business Income. Every pawn shop transaction would have resulted in a loss, not a profit.

Leathers also wrote that the MCHA is "better suited for hearing officers to have expertise in HUD income regulations, not an expert in accounting and income tax." He said later in his reply, "When using an outside hearing officer, it is important to ensure they know the rule and PHA policy related to decisions under dispute and are informed of the limits to decisions that can be made in a hearing."

Now, the last part of that sentence really bothered me. Exactly what were the "limits to decisions" that the hearing officer could make? Could she find for the Appellant? Against the MCHA?

He directed me to MCHA for the contact at HUD for an appeal. But I didn't need that. Contact information was readily available at 

On Friday, October 25, I mailed a letter to the Regional Office of HUD in Chicago. 

What was the response? Come back tomorrow. Fasten your seat belt!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Citizen Beats Bull Valley

There is a citizen out there who took on Bull Valley and its revenue plan. He fought and he fought and he fought. Was this David vs. Goliath? Or David vs. a mole hill? But a mole hill that could spend taxpayer dollars. Dollars after dollars after dollars.

I don't know the Petitioner, the person who was harmed by the tactics of the Bull Valley PD and its former Chief. Most drivers know the reputation of the Bull Valley PD, or at least its reputation for many years.

From McHenry County Circuit Court record, this case appears to be No. 15LA000407, Charles A. Casamento v. Village of Bull Valley et al. Virtually impossible to find among the many cases involving Bull Valley, but easily found in search results for James Page.

I had heard a story about one of its part-time police officers who would stop local Mexican pizza delivery drivers for speeding. Being such a nice guy, he would "let" them pay their speeding fines on the spot, in cash, so that a hot pizza wouldn't cool off. Very considerate, right? That officer was allowed to resign. He should have been prosecuted and sent to jail.

Well, the local lawsuit was settled this week. Read this posting from Facebook.

I’ve been waiting for this day for almost 4 years. Four days short of 4 years actually.
Tonight, the jury concluded that I was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted by Jim Page and the village of Bull Valley holding them liable for my damages.
One month ago at a pre-trial conference with the judge, opposing counsel, and my lawyers, it was ruled that there would be many things that were not to be discussed or allowed into the trial as evidence. While I don’t agree with that decision, I respect the rule of law and it applied to both sides - but in my opinion there was so much more that wasn’t allowed on my side.
My attorneys went into the lions den this week with two hands tied behind their backs and simply delivered the best case they could have with what we were allowed to do. They fought and battled like no one I’ve ever seen to make sure the jury understood the most they could from what happened to me. I am extremely grateful by their efforts in the monumental task.
Thank you Jeannie Ridings and George Kililis for all of your hard work. And Randal Baudin Sr who initially assisted me and filed the lawsuit. 
And thank you to all the anonymous police officers who assisted me from day one. You know who you are and I am extremely grateful.
After understanding the rules of evidence before the trial, we had assumptions that my damages would be under $10,000. Tonight, 12 jurors awarded me $55,000. While it is not the amount we were hoping for, I am extremely satisfied simply over the principle and I understand it was way more than I thought it would be based on the rules going into trial.
I will say this one last time. I started this campaign over five years ago to help every citizen who either drives through or enters Bull Valley. The police department for so many years was running a major racketeering and illegal ticketing operation robbing citizens blind for so many years and left unchecked. My initial goal was to figure out what was going on and help one of my employees at the time. And then the rest is history from there.
I gave them an opportunity to make a course correction and rather than change course, they tried ruining my life. At the end of it, the illegal ticketing operation has ceased, several police officer positions have been eliminated - including the chief of police and I now understand people can drive through the village for the most part without the fear of having their lives turned upside down.
Thank you for all of your interest in my case, and I want you all to know today justice has been served.
I myself never had a problem driving through Bull Valley but, then, I'm the guy who was often at the front of the line of cars, poking along at exactly the posted speed limit and making full stops at Stop signs. I had heard about speeding tickets for 2MPH over the posted limit, although a former Chief told me that none of his officers ever wrote a ticket for less than 10MPH over.

Congratulations to Mr. Casamento for your perseverance and your victory.

Housing Authority - Part 6

Once I got involved with this and saw the dead-end into which the tenant had run, I contacted the Executive Director of the McHenry County Housing Authority, Kim Ulbrich.

In a telephone discussion, she upheld the decision of her employees and the hearing officer.

It was obvious to me that she, too, did not understand that there was no way that a short-term collateralized loan could be income. I mean, it just does not make sense.

The only reason that it was "income" in the eyes of the Housing Authority was that the Housing Specialist, the Housing Supervisor and the hearing officer had decided to call it income. Whether or not it was legally "income".

When I inquired about the appeals process, Kim said she, as Executive Director, was not an appeals end-point. This was hard for me to grasp.

The hearing officer had conducted an "informal hearing", as identified in the decision. The Executive Director should have the authority to over-ride it, if it is wrong. Just as a judge has the authority to over-ride a decision by a jury.

But the Executive Director informed me that an appeal could only be made to HUD or through a lawsuit.


After I thought about that, I made a list of possible levels of appeal:

The McHenry County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (composed of Keith Leathers, Chair (Home State Bank, Crystal Lake); Mary Reid, Vice Chair; Victor Oswald, Huntley; Mary Donner, Crystal Lake; Lyn Orphal, Huntley; Kevin Myers, Oakwood Village; Marty Kampmeier, McHenry)
The McHenry County Board
The McHenry County Mental Health Board
Then HUD
And then the courts

And, of course, there are the newspapers and blogs: Northwest Herald, Daily Herald, McHenry County Blog, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and the television stations.

I started with Keith Leathers. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 5

Continuing with the saga of the Section 8 tenant of the McHenry County Housing Authority whose monthly assistance was reduced, because an Authority clerk decided that pawn shop loans were "income".

On September 27 a hearing was conducted on an appeal. The tenant challenged the Authority's consideration that a "short-term collateralized loan" was "income".

The Housing Authority selected the hearing officer.  HUD Guidelines call for the selection of a hearing officer who has knowledge of the particular item or issue being contested. Did the Authority do so?

The hearing officer selected, who can remain nameless here, includes this in her LinkedIn profile: "Management of HUD-based grants to McHenry County agencies, programs, and municipalities. .."

Right there could be enough to decide that this hearing officer might be biased in her partiality. Could she make a decision against the McHenry County Housing Authority? Not that she would, but could she? Could she be impartial, independent? If the tenant was right that a pawn shop loan was not income, could or would she support the tenant and rule against the McHenry County Housing Authority? How would that affect her future working relationship with the Authority?

What happened on September 27 was she swallowed - hook, line and sinker - the argument of the Housing Authority. According to her written decision, issued on October 4, 2019, she ruled that deposits of cash received from pawn shop loans were "cash income", 

Her whole premise that pawn shop loans was unsupported. She didn't determine that the tenant was engaged in any business; the fact was that he was not. He merely borrowed some money for a short period of time. He did this several times. If one time was not "income", then a number of times would not be income. She ended her Decision with "As such, I concur with the determination of income calculation performed by the McHenry County Housing Authority."

She was wrong; it was wrong.

But the tenant continued to suffer the reduction in monthly assistance. A clerk told him that if he could produce future checking statements without similar "deposits", then his case would be re-considered.

It was at this point I got involved. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 4

Are pawn shop loans income? Is the use of a pawn shop a "business"?

At one point a clerk at the Housing Authority provided the tenant with its form for calculating business income. The Housing Authority was trying to support its unjustifiable position that a pawn shop transaction was a business. It provided a worksheet titled "SELF-EMPLOYED INCOME WORKSHEET".

The first problem with completing it, of course, is that the Tenant was not self-employed. And then the Housing Authority had considered the total of several loans as income, without any adjustments for expenses.

The question of completing such a form and for a tenant to submit it could put the tenant in a position of having submitted false information to the Housing Authority. The Authority offered the form and expected him to complete it. But where would the legal responsibility fall, if he did complete it and submit it?

It's a pretty big deal, in my book, to submit a form containing false information to a HUD-affiliated agency.

But let's go down the path followed by the Housing Authority.

How much income would a pawn shop customer have, if he borrowed $100. A typical pawn shop transaction requires collateral worth substantially more than $100. Then the borrower (customer) must pay back the loan, plus interest, within a stated period of time; that time period is, for example, 30 days. That's why these are called "short-term collateralized loans".

Let's say the pawn shop charges a fee of 20% for a 30-day loan. When the customer redeems the pawn ticket, he would pay $120.00 and get his collateral back.

You figure it out. How much "income" did he have?

First of all, he didn't have any income, because it was not a business transaction.

But, if you filled out the Self-Employed Income Worksheet and put $100 on the top line as income, where would you put the $120 that he paid back? Would you list that as an expense?

How much is $100 less $120? There is, of course, no "income". In fact, there is a loss. A $20 loss.

The tenant and the Housing Authority could not reach a meeting of the minds, and the conclusion reached by the Housing Authority was appealed. An appeal hearing was scheduled for September 27.

Of course,, that was well past the due date of the September rent and just five days before the tenant's October rent was due.

Some back tomorrow to learn about the hearing on the appeal.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 3

Probably the Housing Authority should not have intruded on the tenant's privacy by examining his checking account statement. But when an "authority" asks for information, often clients of such an authority don't know whether they can refuse to comply without risking loss of a benefit. Was that the case here?

The Housing Authority has the right to ask about amounts and sources of income? The HUD Regulations allow this. The purpose is to make allowed adjustments in benefits, in view of changes in income.

In any event, this particular client has not yet learned to live within the limits of his SSI/SSA benefit and during a month he may need more money. He has avoided PayDay Loans, but he has used pawn shops as a temporary source of funds.

When the Housing Authority's clerk identified such loans, she decided they were income. It must have been an arbitrary conclusion on her part and probably supported, if not guided, by her supervisor. The result was a reduction in monthly assistance of $220.00. 

The way this works is, when the Housing Authority reduces its monthly assistance, then the tenant is required to pay that amount to the apartment complex management as an increase in his share of the monthly rent. Discussing, disputing, challenging such a reduction with the person who made the decision goes nowhere.

There is a appeal process. In this case an appeal was made, and a hearing was scheduled for the end of the first month of the reduction in assistance.

Before you hear about the appeal hearing, consider what you think would be a fair appointment of a hearing officer. Should that hearing officer be independent? Impartial? Unbiased? With knowledge of HUD Regulations and of the specific item being contested?

Come back tomorrow for information on the hearing that was held.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Housing Authority - Part 2

It started when the Section 8 tenant reported that he had found a job. The Housing Authority got ready to adjust his monthly housing assistance. Then they wanted to see his checking account statement.

One professional told me that was "problematic". I can only guess what that means. Probably that the Housing Authority had no right to examine his personal checking account statement.

The clerk at the Housing Authority noticed deposits on the statement (his only income at that time was SSA and SSI checks at the beginning of the month). He explained those as being deposits from pawn shop transactions.

What is a pawn shop transaction? It is a "short-term collateralized loan". Generally speaking, a customer takes something of value (TV, computer, cellphone) into a pawn shop, borrows money, puts his property up as collateral, and walks out with cash.

Is there anyone who has passed Third Grade who would think that cash received as loan is Income?

You don't even have to read the HUD Regulations to believe it is not income.

Keep reading here over the next few days to learn how not only did the first-level clerk at the Housing Authority conclude that the loans were "income", but so did her supervisor, a hearing officer, the Housing Authority's executive director, and the Chairman of the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners (who happens to be a banker!).

Saturday, November 16, 2019

McHenry County Housing Authority - How is it doing?

Recently a situation involving the McHenry County Housing Authority (MCHA) was called to my attention. It involved a Section 8 tenant who had had his housing assistance reduced it. Unfairly, it seemed.

It should have been easy to resolve. After all, there are regulations that dictate how monthly assistance is calculated. I expected that the regulations had been in place for years and should be well understood by the employees who are in charge of such calculations.

Who establishes the regulations? HUD does. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, of which the Hon. Ben Carson, M.D. is the Secretary.

OK, so what was going on?

The tenant reported to MCHA that he had found employment and that his income would change. This would mean a re-calculation of his housing assistance. No problem so far.

But then the MCHA wanted to inspect his checking account statement for deposits of income. And this is where the problem began.

The tenant's statement showed deposits, which the MCHA employee questioned. When the tenant answered that he had made some pawn shop transactions and had deposited the amounts borrowed, the MCHA employee decided those deposits were "income", and she re-calculated and lowered his housing assistance because of that "income".

If you are a client of the MCHA or know someone who is, have you, or have they, had any problems with adjustments in their housing assistance?

If you (or they) challenged MCHA decisions, what was the outcome?

Come back tomorrow for the "next chapter" in this tenant's story.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Send information to State's Attorney

McHenry County Blog closed its article about Beth yesterday with this: "The results of the joint investigation conducted by the ISP Zone 7 Investigations, ISP Zone 1 Investigations and Woodstock Police Department (WPD) have been forwarded to the Jefferson County State’s Attorney’s
office for review."
If you have any information, thoughts, suspicions or ideas about how Beth Bentley died, send them to
The Honorable Sean Featherstun
Jefferson County State’s Attorney
100 S. 10th Street, Room 203

Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ISP Press Release on Bentley

Earlier this afternoon the Illinois State Police issued this press release:

DuQuoin, IL – Illinois State Police (ISP) officials announce the positive identification of the body of Benedetta “Beth” Bentley. The human remains, located on December 4, 2017 in rural Jefferson County, have been positively identified.
On May 23, 2010, a friend reportedly dropped off Beth Bentley at an Amtrak Station in Centralia, Illinois. Bentley was reportedly taking a train back to her home located in Woodstock, Illinois. Bentley did not return home and was reported missing. Information was developed which led the ISP to a rural location in Jefferson County where suspected human remains were recovered at the location.
The results of the joint investigation conducted by the ISP Zone 7 Investigations, ISP Zone 1 Investigations and Woodstock Police Department (WPD) have been forwarded to the Jefferson County State’s Attorney’s office for review.
No further information will be available from the ISP.
All subjects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The "friend" mentioned in that release is Jenn Wyatt. Was she telling the truth at the time, when she said she dropped Beth off at the Amtrak station in Centralia?

I saw the phone records for several people on a group phone bill, and the pattern of calls was definitely suspicious.

The Woodstock Police Department was the lead investigating agency, because it was where she was reported missing. However, Woodstock is more than 300 miles from Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County, and it would have been difficult and expensive for Woodstock PD to investigate thorough.

Did the Illinois State Police get a tip to check out a burn pit? Who tipped them? Did that person seek immunity for providing the tip? 

Never lose hope in DNA testing. It might take a while; might take years. But cases get solved many years later. 

Remains are of Beth Bentley

The Illinois State Police is reporting that burned remains found approximately two years in Jefferson County, Illinois, near Mt. Vernon, are those of missing Beth Bentley, then 41, of Woodstock.

Beth was reported missing in May 2010, when she did not return from a trip to Mt. Vernon, Iowa with her friend, Jenn Wyatt. There are many articles on this blog. For a couple of years I wrote weekly about her being missing.

There were plenty of suspicions floating around about what happened to her. There were too many misdirections and red herrings. Too many stories that didn't match up. Too many sketchy circumstances.

Those closest to these stories should be worried big-time now that her remains have been found. In my mind, there is no doubt that at least six people have known since May 2010 exactly what happened to her. Until now they apparently have kept their mouths shut. Now that they know the little burning trick didn't work, maybe at least one of them will be nervous enough to speak up.

Obviously, she never took a train from Centralia, as Wyatt said. How is Wyatt going to explain now about the identity of the burned remains? Wyatt claimed then that she had driven Bentley to the Amtrak station and dropped her there, so that Bentley could take the train to Chicago and on to Woodstock. Will she stick to that story now?

Thanks to the numerous people who tipped me off to the short story in the Northwest Herald. The Illinois State Police will remain quiet; it's an open case.

The next court date on the probate of Beth's Will is scheduled for February 18, 2020. Will Judge Chmiel find good reason to hold the probate open? Can anyone explain the Motion to Impound that was filed on December 21, 2017? Is this similar to sealing court records? Why would that have been requested?