Agency accused of shoddy work on low-income homes

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ATLANTA - One of the largest anti-poverty agencies in Georgia is accused of putting hundreds of metro Atlanta homeowners in possible danger.
   

The Partnership for Community Action got millions of dollars in federal money to weatherize homes for low-income families, but Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher found that state inspectors found repeated problems with the quality of the work.

The most serious accusation is that the group failed to check hundreds of homes for the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Before and after homes get new insulation and other energy-savings treatments, they are supposed to be checked to make sure deadly carbon monoxide is not leaking from stoves, water heaters or furnaces.

A senior state official told Channel 2 Action News that the PCA misled his office and may have lied. Homes weatherized by PCA are now the subject of a bitter dispute involving allegations of shoddy and incomplete or unsafe work on hundreds of homes.

"This has potential to really be a bad situation," said Kevin Clark, who runs the Georgia Environmental Finance Administration (GEFA).
 
Brinca McMickens had her Lithonia home weatherized by PCA.

"I failed the CO test, which meant that carbon monoxide was seeping through my house," McMickens told Belcher.

Based in Clarkston, PCA has received nearly $15 million in mostly federal stimulus money to weatherize 1,600 homes in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties.
 
McMickens told Belcher that PCA's work on her home was shoddy and dangerous.
 
"You know, I could have been in a fatal situation, my family and I," said McMickens.
 
Two years ago, the state received a single complaint about the quality of PCS's work, but when GEFA started digging the numbers soared.
 
"When you go into a home and you see a trend of deficiencies, you start to speculate as to the homes that you didn't go in and check," said GEFA Weatherization Director Debbie Smiley.
 
In the span of a year, the state went from a single complaint to concerns about five homes, to a staggering 569 homes on which it says PCA did not complete the critical safety checks.
 
"I've certainly been misled," Clark said.
 
"We wanted to correct the problem ourselves," said Mohammed Saleem, director of the PCA.
 
"They don't trust you to correct it?" asked Belcher.
 
"Well, that's what they say, but we could have done it a lot cheaper," said Saleem.
 
Saleem said his agency has now hired an attorney and is demanding a hearing because the state wants PCA to pay for more than $800,000 in remedial work.
 
"We're not in the business of paying for things twice," said Clark.
 
GEFA also wanted to cut off any future weatherization money for PCA and has asked the state inspector general to investigate for possible fraud.
 
"There is no fraud to our understanding. To my knowledge, I don't know at all about any fraud. We have done the work to the best of our ability. If there is something, I would like to know what it is, and we will take appropriate action," said Saleem.
 
The state inspector general confirms there is an investigation, but can't say when it will be finished. GEFA said it has been unable to reach several dozen homeowners to retest their homes.

If you are one of those homeowners, call 404-584-1000 to arrange for a combustion safety inspection.



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