EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – The interim director of the East St. Louis Housing Authority was dismissed in the wake of inappropriate spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Several lawsuit enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are now investigating. There’s also an effort to oust the Housing Commissioner Chairwoman who blew the whistle on this deal.
This all started when allegations surfaced of excessive change orders worth thousands of dollars. Housing Commission President Shonte Mueller continued digging, ultimately recommending that Jacqueline Powell be fired. The Housing Commission held a meeting to terminate Powell.
Mueller sat down with You Paid For It’s Elliott Davis to explain the grounds for the dismissal. She said three companies that have never done business with the East St. Louis Housing Authority were awarded contracts worth more than $206,000.
Mueller says Powell awarded these contracts to family members.
“We have knowledge that these people are related, and it’s against HUD’s policy,” said Mueller. “You cannot award contracts to family members if you have approving authority.”
One company, whose owner Mueller identified as Powell’s brother-in-law, got several contracts between $9,100 and $9,900. Change orders were added to each one, one of them as high as $6,025, bringing the total repairs for just one apartment to $15,550.
Mueller prepared this list of 3 suspected relatives of Powell with work totaling $84,000. She believes they got a lot more money than that, and calls it all unfair.
“We shouldn’t be spending money to get custom counter tops luxury vinyl wood flooring. We have people who need to be removed out of units with infestation rodents bed bugs termites,” she said.
Elliott Davis reached out to former Housing Authority Director Jacqueline Powell by phone on Friday. She said “it is false. It’s not what happened. I want to explained what happened.” She initially agreed to talk via a Zoom call, but later backed out.
Powell later sent a text reading: “I know the media likes to shed negative light on East St. Louis because of the foolishness. This is just a distraction plot. This is not true. I promise you. We will talk soon.”
Meanwhile, Mueller says she also found herself in hot water with city leaders over this matter.
“I was told that I should not report anything and that I should resign if I didn’t accept this misappropriation of funds,” said Mueller. “I spoke with HUD and informed them of everything that was going on, and I was told, just keep going; you’re doing the right thing.”
She says the East St. Louis City Council voted to fire her too and says others threatened trouble if she didn’t drop the allegations against the interim director.
Mueller’s husband, an assistant police chief in East St. Louis, was not as lucky.
“He was told to come to the office and [allegedly] stated that he was being removed because of what his wife is doing. It absolutely is retaliation,” said Mueller.
Apparently, officials haven’t given up on trying to get Mueller off the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. The council has set a meeting for Nov. 16 to try again.
“I’m not sure how much fight I have left in me I just wanted to get the truth out,” said Mueller.