The East St. Louis Housing Authority may soon be back under local control for the first time since 1985. So you might wonder what happened back then for the feds to take over operations.
Well, rats happened: The four-legged and the two-legged variety.
The housing authority in the early 1980s was — brace yourself — corrupt, and that corruption led to residents living in vermin-infested homes with no heat, leaking windows, appliances that didn’t work and crumbling ceilings that dropped bits into their food when they cooked. Residents organized protests led by the clergy and then they filed a class-action lawsuit trying to force the housing authority to do right by them.
The authority had no money because its former executive director, A. Wendell Wheadon, was busy diverting it to himself and his cronies. Wheadon and another man were caught paying themselves $1.4 million for about $150,000 in work. Wheadon was sentenced to seven years in the federal pen.
The feds took over back then as a result of the corruption and neglect.
Fast forward and federal control of the housing authority yielded former East St. Louis Township supervisor and current federal inmate Oliver W. Hamilton. The mother of his child was in charge of contracts for the housing authority. Hamilton did $628,966 worth of drywall work for the authority, supposedly paying his workers the mandated $40.66 an hour. To that, the workers said, “Huh?”
So the authority in 1985 was corrupt with city control, recently was corrupt with federal control. The difference seems to be residents are no longer marching with signs about conditions.
Which leads to the now: If the feds are pulling out, what a perfect time to kill the East St. Louis Housing Authority. Save the tax dollars wasted on duplicate administration and duplicitous administrators.
We do not have a Lebanon or Cahokia or Belleville housing authority, so why a separate one for East St. Louis? Residents in all those communities find places in public housing just fine with the St. Clair County Housing Authority running things.
But then, the reasons for keeping it separate are obvious — just like the reasons for continuing to use your county tax dollars to subsidize a separate East St. Louis election board.