Dog Bites

Stuffed Under a Mattress?
The San Francisco Housing Authority is having trouble locating $5.5 million of its funds, and it doesn't appear too interested in finding it, says Barrie Stewart, the Housing Authority's director of finance.

The vaporous quality of the money has been detected by two independent auditors over the years. The first time the existence of the money was doubted came in 1986.

Yet the authority hasn't made an effort to find it, according to Stewart. "Everyone is turning a blind eye," says Stewart, who has been warning housing officials of the missing money for more than six months.

Stewart says the money shows up on the authority's books as debts owed to it by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But he can't find any supporting documents to back that claim. He also adds that HUD cannot even verify if the money is owed to the Housing Authority.

"This is a very complex agency that is poorly run," Stewart says. "There are records missing and unaccounted for."

Or as Stewart says in his latest report to the Housing Commission's finance committee: "There are literally years of unreconciled fund transactions."

And this ain't no small matter. If the Housing Authority can't demonstrate good accounting skills in a federal audit currently under way, it could lose millions of dollars, says Housing Commissioner Barbara Meskunas, who chairs the commission's finance committee.

The money San Francisco would lose -- funds to modernize and rehabilitate existing housing -- would directly hurt tenants, Meskunas points out.

Besides impact on tenants, there is of course the ultimate question of where in the hell did the money go.

Meskunas has a theory: Maybe former Housing Authority Director David Gilmore's administration fudged the books to get the agency off the HUD troubled list.

"It may be smoke and mirrors," she says. "Maybe we need to ask is it true all the arguments [Gilmore] made to remove us from that list."

But the concerns expressed by Stewart and Meskunas don't seem to be rattling the Housing Authority administration. Spokesperson Ron Sonenhine says, "[Authority Executive Director] Shirley Thornton views this as a non-issue right now, which doesn't mean it won't be an issue in the future. But I wouldn't call it a problem. It's a perceived problem."

For the record, Gilmore says Meskunas is off-base with her conspiracy theories.

"As far as fudging the books, to respond to [Meskunas], we were audited yearly, and those audits verified all our accounts to be accurate."

The Power of the Press
The power of the press belongs to those who own one, as A.J. Liebling was fond of saying, a truism that the publishers of Might magazine are currently living.

At the end of November, Might's printers pulled the magazine's issue No. 9 from the presses after the pressmen at Brown Printing of Waseca, Minn., read and objected to the cover story, which contained first-person accounts about the use of condoms by both gays and straights. Contractually obligated to print the issue, Brown Printing shuffled the job to another shop.

What is odd about the printer's censorial behavior, says Might Editor (and SF Weekly cartoonist) Dave Eggers, is that the cover story contained no "gratuitous sexual language" or prurient photos. Eggers says that Might has since found another printer, but asks in his press release, "As long as the content isn't pornography, shouldn't the printer just keep their noses out of it?"

By George Cothran, Jack Shafer

 
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