ELKTON — In the week since the Cecil Whig obtained documents exposing alleged embezzlement of $50,000 in federal funds by Elkton Housing Authority Executive Director Cindy Osborne, residents have flooded our phone lines and e-mails with their thoughts about the situation.
In particular, people who worked with the Elkton Housing Authority to obtain affordable housing report feeling like they have been “ripped off” for years.
An group of individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity provided context, including perennially high bills and late fees with no explanation. Residents are hesitant to go on the record due to fear of retaliation, but have sent the Whig pictures and documents.
“I will be honest,” a spokesperson for the group said. “Going on the record — not many of us, myself included, would be willing to do that. We may find ourselves being evicted. We want things resolved. We want peace.”
The Cecil Whig obtained a July 2 letter between Charles Hicks, Chair of the Board of Elkton Housing Authority, to HUD officials in both Baltimore and Washington stating that “on or about June 28, 2019, we uncovered financial improprieties by the Authority’s Executive Director, Cynthia Osborne.”
The letter further states that the board is “aware” that Osborne has allegedly “embezzled approximately $50,000 in federal funds,” and that Osborne “admitted to the embezzlement as a lone actor.”
Osborne was escorted out of the East Main Street building with instructions not to return to the property until Board Chair Hicks notified her to do so, according to documents obtained by the Whig.
Osborne was also allegedly placed on unpaid administrative leave, but is still listed as the executive director of the organization on official communiques from the EHA and on the professional social media site LinkedIn.
“We have to complete the investigation in order to form — you know, verify — what she has admitted to,” Hicks told the Whig last week. “We have to verify everything.”
A HUD official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said there was frustration because the investigation was “taking its time.”
Hicks confirmed to the Whig that Deputy Director Nancy Hopkins is acting as the executive director of the organization.
A spokesperson for the group of EHA residents said they were not please with their interactions with Hopkins, either.
“I had always wondered why, when I had never interacted with her before, she got so angry with me when I started questioning her math and what I did and did not owe,” the spokesperson said.
“She was very hostile for no reason. I was only asking for answers because I continually found discrepancies in her math. She is the person who works the numbers and determines everyone’s rent and signs off on all those utility bills that have dramatically increased for all of us.”
One former Elkton Housing Authority resident was willing to speak on the record. She alleges that Osborne was purposefully inflating bills and fines with no justification.
“I lived there in 1994 and 1995 at 200 Rudy Park,” said Betty Wilson.
“When I went to nursing school for one month, Cindy [Osborne] raised my rent to more than $700 per month.”
When neighbors tried to help Wilson pay for gaps in her rent, “Cindy refused,” she said. “I couldn’t keep my home.”
Wilson then attempted to go through other means to obtain housing, but was blocked due to what she said was a baseless outstanding bill.
“Cindy put down that I owed almost $3,000,” she said. “But when I needed the proof of why, there was no proof anywhere. I tried to tell everyone she was ripping me off, but no one would listen to me. When I was offered Section 8 for a brand new home, that’s when i found out that Cindy had put in my record.”
Wilson says a friend and neighbor was taken to court for a $1 fee.
“Now, maybe someone will listen to me,” she said. “Look at my record. I kept the house clean. I even went on my hands and knees with bleach water and kept everything clean, including my walls.”
Wilson said that Osborne “has been ripping people off like crazy,” saying that relatives of hers were also forced to move or denied housing under Osborne’s reign.
“She was a very bad landlord,” Wilson said. “Very bad.”
Wilson said she moved to Alabama because she was “tired of being homeless.”
“I love it here,” she said. “There’s no drama.”