MSHDA Director Scott Woosley resigns day after questions are raised over big spending

(WXYZ) - A day after media reports raised questions about how Scott Woosley and staff racked up more than $200,000 on limousines, ritzy hotels, fancy trips and dinners, he resigned as Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director.

“It is with great regret that I am resigning today as the executive director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and as Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Community Development Corporation," said Woosley in a written statement released Friday.

"I don’t want recent news reports to be a distraction from the transformative work that is happening at MSHDA and across the State,” he said.

The spending came to light through records the Michigan Democratic Party obtained through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The records include receipts that show $23,225.38 in rides on state owned private planes; $10,602.90 in first class airfare to China; $30,187.77 for trips to the Middle East where Woosley stayed at a Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia.

MSHDA is a state housing financing agency that is supposed to help low and moderate income people get loans for affordable housing. Woosley had headed MSHDA since 2012.

The records also show that Woosley and his staff often stayed at expensive hotels on overseas trips. On a trip to Nebraska, they rented a limo for seven hours when they flew to the wrong city.

The Michigan Democratic Party is calling on the state’s auditor general to take a closer look at these travel expenses.

“What we’re seeing is a pattern of abuse by this administration, and their spending. And what we found was very disturbing,” said Lon Johnson, the Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

“I don’t know why somebody who’s trying to build housing in Michigan is in Dubai, quite frankly. Now there may be reasons they were seeking investors -- travel overseas isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What we need though is to make sure we’re doing it for the lowest possible expense so that we protect taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak).

When the spending initially was reported, Woosley refused to answer specific questions, but released this statement Thursday:

“I would never expect the State to reimburse what is not properly reimbursable or at a rate that would be inappropriate. I am asking the Department of Treasury to closely review any previously paid expenses to determine if there was anything at all that was inadvertently reimbursed. If any such instances are found, I will write a personal check for anything that was not an appropriate state-approved expense or that meets established guidelines. “There is too much positive action taking place at the state -- and at the Authority -- for any of this to get in the way of our forward momentum. We are moving the state in a direction that benefits all Michiganders. I will continue to do the good work we have started and that is to help meet the housing needs of Michiganders, tackle blight and build strong communities and neighborhoods as well as attract investment, capital, jobs, and economic activity.”

In May of 2012, Governor Rick Snyder appointed Woosley to the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.    A few months later in October of 2012, the 51-year-old real estate financial developer got the MSHDA job.

But one week after Woosley took over MSHDA, A federal tax lien for $105,179.36 was filed against Woosley’s Rochester home for not paying income taxes.

The state also filed a tax lien against Woosley for $11,982.89.

Both liens were quickly paid off.  Woosley has also offered to pay back any of his state expenses that were improperly reimbursed.

A spokeswoman for the Governor said on Thursday they were looking into the spending to ensure all state agencies are following the rules when it comes to travel and expenses.  The Governor's spokeswoman has not returned calls or emails to answer questions about whether Snyder knew about the tax liens when Woosley was hired.

While a search for a permanent executive director is conducted, State Treasurer Kevin Clinton – in his role as chair of the MSHDA Board of Directors – is recommending that the Board appoint Deputy State Treasurer Wayne Workman as Acting-Executive Director of MSHDA, at its next meeting, according to a statement issued on Friday.

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