NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Gov. Chris Christie has appointed Boraie Redevelopment realtor Ramon Alayon to the board of the city’s housing authority, a position which hasn’t been filled in years.
The move was announced late Wednesday afternoon by the lame duck governor, a day after his final State of the State Address and less than a week before Christie is set to leave office.
That same day, resignation letters for high-level Christie-appointed officials were sent out by the transition team of NJ Gov.-elect Phil Murphy.
The eight-member board governs the New Brunswick Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the city’s public housing and serves as the gatekeeper for redevelopment projects.
Alayon was one of dozens of appointees announced on Jan. 10, with several others also hailing from Middlesex County. Alayon couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Under state law, Alayon will be on the board until he resigns or if he’s forced out by the Department of Community Affairs, a state government agency which oversees all of New Jersey’s municipalities.
The housing authority has fallen under controversy in recent months. A federal audit released in September 2017 described the housing authority as a “troubled housing authority agency” by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which divvies out public housing grants across the country.
HUD, in the audit, said that the housing authority improperly spent up to $1 million, and that the authority should turn over paperwork showing the purchases were justified, or give the feds their money back.
Following the audit, Mayor James Cahill said he was confident any actions of the housing authority would be found to have been appropriate.
There may have been a "technical violation related to the timely expenditure of funds," Cahill said, given the time sensitive nature of installing an emergency generator following Superstorm Sandy, as well as "management fees" from the demolition of Hoffman Pavilion Senior Housing facility, and subsequent environmental remediation at the site.
But Cahill assured that “the issues raised in this audit have already been addressed by the Housing Authority in its Corrective Action Plan adopted” in 2017.
In the following month, dozens of residents and community activists packed into the board’s November meeting, where they lamented on housing woes they’ve put up with for several years, all the while grilling board members over their dissatisfaction.