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Wilmington Housing Partnership Director resigns after audit reveals financial challenges

Delaware Public Media

Wilmington Housing Partnership (WHP) Executive Director Steve Martin has resigned following a City of Wilmington audit that revealed misuse of financial assistance from the City, hundreds of thousands of dollars in accounting records errors and a “weakened financial condition.”


Martin had served as WHP's executive director for more than a decade.

Wilmington Real Estate and Housing Director Bob Weir will step in to oversee and attempt to expedite two ongoing WHP housing projects: Bennett Street and Vandever Avenue.

The Wilmington Housing Partnership is a publicly and privately funded non-profit and quasi-governmental agency, separate from the City of Wilmington and the Wilmington Housing Authority. WHP has built roughly 500 homes in its 25 years of operation, according to the organization’s website. It focuses on affordable housing and increasing homeownership in the City of Wilmington.

In a statement released late last week, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said “I want to make sure that the WHP’s emphasis on rebuilding our neighborhoods continues, and that its property assets are preserved and hopefully developed.”

Purzycki attributed WPH’s financial “imbalances” to its responsibility to subsidize housing projects to keep them affordable and its “aggressive property acquisition plan.”

According to a report released last week and signed by City Auditor Terence Williams, more than half of WHP’s 156 properties have no development planned. These unplanned properties are worth $3.1 million, according to the report. The Auditor has recommended WHP sell some of the properties with no development planned, and put the income toward operational costs.

The audit found that developer fees provided to WHP by the City of Wilmington intended to cover operations expenses were used as revolving funds. WHP currently owes the City $158,000 in unpaid loans.

Last year, the City helped WHP secure a $500,000 bridge loan from the Urban Development Action Grant Corporation and a $275,000 loan from the Real Estate and Housing Department. According to officials, the City has approached Cinnaire for a $500,000 construction loan for WHP and is awaiting that decision.

As of last April, WHP had a negative operations balance of more than $70,000, with funds from its project account being used to cover salaries and other operational costs, according to the report.

The report notes untimely bank reconciliations, with the oldest of WHP’s unreconciled accounts dating back to 2009.

A large part of WHP’s financial troubles stem from the fact that it has not received $400,000 in anticipated funds from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation for its Eastside Revitalization Project. According to the City’s audit, nearly $200,000 of WHP operational funds were used to float the project in the absence of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation money.

The Auditor’s report states that it is “imperative” that the JPMorgan Chase Foundation honor its contractual agreement and disburse the funds. JPMorgan Chase Foundation declined to answer any questions about the grant.

The report noted that Executive Director Steve Martin had too much control over the financial management process, resulting in “segregation of duties” issues. The report also states that the WHP failed to supply the City’s Internal Audit Department with the requested conflict of interest documents.

The Auditor’s report recommends an external firm handle the WHP accounting and bookkeeping going forward.

Purzycki’s release said that WHP board Chairman Robert Buccini “does not absolve himself from blame regarding the WHP’s current financial condition” and notes WHP’s “problems still should have been managed better.” Buccini is co-president and co-founder of Buccini/Pollin Group, a major developer and real estate owner in the City of Wilmington.

Other members of the WHP board include four members of Purzycki’s administration: Chief of Staff Tanya Washington, the late Finance Director Patrick Carter, Planning Director Herb Inden and RE&H Director Weir. Wilmington City Council Member Charles “Bud” Freel also sits on the board.

In his statement, Purzycki called it “troubling” that none of these officials “was provided information that would have indicated the financial condition of the agency.”


The audit report was completed Jan. 7, but was not released to the public until Jan. 18. The News Journal reported that a public information request from the paper prompted the public release of the audit.

This story has been updated to include the response from JPMorgan Chase. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.