Providence Housing Scandal: Top Stories in RI in 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012


It started with a complaint filed by one his employees. Then came another. And another.

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By the summer, Providence Housing Authority executive director Stephen O’Rourke had been forced to resign, ending a 25-year career in which he was credited with saving the agency from bankruptcy. His parting gift: A $250,000 severance package.

The original complaint was filed Elizabeth Herosy, who claimed the PHA was marred by “serious misconduct, fraud and perhaps criminal activity” by O’Rourke. Her complaint also included details about pornographic images she found on O’Rourke’s computer, alleged misappropriation of funds and a claim that she once found a gun clip in his office.

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Through it all, O’Rourke has maintained his innocence, suggesting he was the victim of a “ smear campaign” initiated by disgruntled employees. O’Rourke claims an internal review cleared him of all wrongdoing and federal investigators found little evidence to substantiate many of the accusers’ claims.

“I believe I have been a victim of a planned, concerted effort (read smear campaign) to discredit me and my closest staff members because of petty contrived slights,” O’Rourke said this summer. “The allegations made against me were serious and purposefully made public for maximum impact damaging my reputation and career and the reputation of this housing authority. These charges were not true, or were exaggerated beyond reasonableness.”

Now the Housing Authority is attempting to move on. Former Assistant Secretary of Housing Nicolas Retsinas is now chairing the board and former General Treasurer Paul Tavares has been tapped as the interim executive director.


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