Ex-employee claims Orlando Housing Authority misused thousands in funds

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The agency that offers affordable housing to low-income families in Orange County is under fire.

Channel 9's Jeff Deal got his hands on a lawsuit filed by a former employee which claims the Orlando Housing Authority misused hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The lawsuit, filed by former OHA Finance Director Debra Leggins, makes some startling allegations about the misuse of federal funds.

Leggins said in September 2010, the authority bought TV equipment and speakers, but then added $9,000 in equipment that was never approved.

Leggins also said the authority paid more than $236,000 to Stratigi Staffing for temporary employees without getting any other bids.

Leggins claims Chief Operating Officer Ellis Henry then tried to cover it up by soliciting bids.

She also contends something similar happened for entertainment event planning. Without other bids, Akens Design was awarded nearly $80,000 in contracts.

On Akens' website, Deal saw a list of Housing Authority projects and a photo of event materials.

Leggins said Akens' owner is a friend of Housing Authority CEO Vivian Bryant. Leggins then claims she complained to Bryant and Ellis and refused to sign off on some of the alleged violations.

The reason she's suing is two days after complaining, Leggins said the authority moved her to the Sanford Housing Authority and later fired her.

Much of the authority money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD told Channel 9, "We are not aware of these allegations, but now that you've notified us, we will look into them."