Probes dog SF housing authority director Ronnie Davis FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 21 Feb 1999 10:00:54 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  San Francisco Examiner - Thursday, February 11, 1999


     By Erin McCormick of the Examiner Staff

Ronnie Davis earns high marks in City; not so in Ohio.

In Cleveland, he's a target of ongoing probes into whether hundreds of
thousands of dollars in government money for the poor was illegally used on
bureaucratic perks and excessive pay packages.

In San Francisco, he's touted as the savior of public housing reform and
credited with making some of The City's worst housing projects liveable

These two views of San Francisco Housing Authority Director Ronnie Davis
may never be reconciled.

While Davis is under intense scrutiny for his financial practices as chief
operating officer of Cleveland's housing authority between 1994 and 1996,
city officials here are voicing full confidence in his current efforts to
pull San Francisco's housing projects out from the dregs of the nation's
public housing stock.

Next week, Ohio's state auditor is expected to release a report that blasts
Davis, former second in command of Cleveland's Housing Authority, for his
role in a three-year agency spending spree that resulted in the firing this
summer of his former Cleveland boss, Claire Freeman-McCown, and has sparked
an FBI investigation.

The audit finds Davis partly responsible for $200,000 in improper credit
card charges the agency ran up for things like flowers, food and trips,
according to reports in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which obtained a draft
copy of the state report.

It also holds Freeman-McCown liable for using $120,000 in public funds to
make mortgage payments on a townhouse she owns in Alexandria, Va., and
finds she and Davis received $630,000 in excessive pay perks in a
three-year period, the Plain Dealer reported. Both Freeman-McCown and Davis
have denied any wrongdoing.

The alleged improprieties in spending at Cleveland's Cuyahoga Housing
Authority have resulted in Freeman-McCown being banned from holding a
contract with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development - a
ruling she is appealing.

Yet officials in San Francisco say the revelations in Cleveland won't
affect their view of Davis' ability to do his job.

"This is something that occurred in another state, halfway across the
country, and doesn't have a lot of relevance here," said Kandace Bender,
spokeswoman for Mayor Brown, who brought Davis here from Cleveland in 1996.

"We believe he has been doing a good job of reducing crime in the housing
projects and improving the living conditions there. He has made a lot of
progress since he came here," she said.

Members of The City's housing commission are hoping the improvements made
by Davis will result in the San Francisco Housing Authority being removed
from the list of the nation's most troubled housing agencies in the next
few months.

Commission member Marisa Moret said she doesn't believe the findings in
Cleveland should cause any alarm for those monitoring Davis' performance in
San Francisco.

"I'm comfortable with the way things are going here," she said. "We just
had our (federal progress) review and they didn't find anything wrong. I
feel we are being kept informed."

Several members of the Board of Supervisors, however, called for more
scrutiny of Davis' performance. Supervisor Leland Yee said the housing
commission should be "watching how are dollars are spent and whether they
are used properly." Supervisor Tom Ammiano said Davis owes the San
Francisco public an explanation for the Cleveland findings and suggested
that Davis hold a press conference. "I'm not in any way denying the good
things that have been done by Ronnie Davis," he said. "But trying to sweep
this under the table isn't going to help anything."


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