This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A04-6

 

Tameca Williams,
Relator,

vs.

Dakota County Community Development Agency,
Respondent.

 

Filed October 19, 2004

Affirmed

Peterson, Judge

 

Dakota County Community Development Authority

 

 

Lisa R. Hollingsworth, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 15815 Franklin Trail Southeast, Prior Lake, MN  55372 (for relator)

 

Mary G. Dobbins, Mary G. Dobbins & Associates, 7400 Metro Boulevard, Suite 100, Edina, MN  55439 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

PETERSON, Judge

In this certiorari appeal, relator Tameca Williams, a recipient of section-8 housing benefits, argues that (1) respondent Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA) lacked legal authority to terminate her housing benefits for failing to report a change in the size of her household, and (2) the record shows neither that the person in question resided with Williams, nor that the hearing officer adequately considered the evidence presented.  We affirm.

FACTS

            In December 2001, Williams applied for housing-assistance benefits administered by the CDA under the federal section-8 housing program.  In the application, she stated that the members of her household were herself and her two children.  As part of the application process, Williams signed a document titled Applicant/Tenant Certification and Statement of Tenant Responsibilities, which stated in relevant part:

            I certify that the members of my household, that I have listed on my application, are the only people that live/stay in my housing unit.

 

            I understand that I must notify the CDA within 30 days if anyone moves in or out of my housing unit.

 

            I understand that failure to report changes in my household size to the CDA within 30 days of the change will result in termination of my housing assistance.

 

            . . . .

 

            I understand that false statements or information are grounds for termination of housing assistance. . . .

 

In September 2002, Williams attended her annual recertification meeting with the CDA and reported that the only people living in her household were herself and her two children.  She again signed an Applicant/Tenant Certification and Statement of Tenant Responsibilities, certifying that the information she had provided about her household was accurate and that she understood that she was required to report any changes in her household composition to the CDA.

In December 2002, Cathy Rice, a Dakota County welfare-fraud investigator, contacted the CDA about an investigation of Williams that she was conducting.  Rice provided the CDA with a copy of her report summarizing her investigative findings that included information provided by Williams to Dakota County in order to receive child-care and medical assistance.  Williams had reported to Dakota County that Andrew Charles Glassing, the father of her younger child, was a member of her household from April 2002 to November 2002.  Rice’s report included the following information:  On April 8, 2002, Williams reported that Glassing moved into the household on April 1, 2002; on April 26, 2002, Williams submitted an addendum adding Glassing to the household; on April 19, 2002, Glassing’s ID was faxed to Dakota County; on May 13, 2002, Williams reported that Glassing moved into the household on April 5, 2002; on September 24, 2002, Williams reported Glassing as a member of the household on a child-care-review form; on October 22, 2002, Glassing’s pay stubs were submitted; on October 23, 2002, Glassing’s pay stubs were submitted; a November 12, 2002, case note reported Glassing as living in the household; a November 26, 2002, case note indicates that Williams reported that Glassing moved from the household; on December 24, 2002, Williams acknowledged to Rice that Glassing had lived with her; also on December 24, 2002,            Glassing told Rice that he had lived with Williams from February 2002 to November 2002.

            Williams had never reported to the CDA that Glassing lived in her household.  In September 2003, the CDA notified Williams that her section-8 rent assistance would be terminated due to her failure to report that an additional person had moved into her household unit.  At Williams’s request, an informal hearing was held to contest the termination decision.[1]  At the hearing, Williams, her mother, Glassing, and his father testified that Glassing never lived in Williams’s household.

Following the hearing, the hearing officer issued a written order upholding the termination.  In the order, after summarizing much of the evidence submitted at the hearing, including Williams’s representations to the CDA and Dakota County, the hearing officer found:

            There is an overwhelming amount of information from this hearing.  After reviewing all of the testimonies and documentation, I have come up with the following conclusion.  Both [Williams] and Mr. Glassing separately admitted that Mr. Glassing resided with [Williams] at her residence . . . from April 2002 through November 2002.  (Mr. Glassing said he moved in with her in February 2002).  They reported this information and documented it in writing to Dakota County in April 2002, May 2002, and in September 2002.  Their stories changed as soon as Ms. Rice questioned them about not reporting this information to the CDA.  There was incentive to not report this information to the CDA.  As [Williams’s] mother said in her testimony, the CDA would not allow Mr. Glassing to live with [Williams] because of the felony on his record.

 

            Although, there is information that contradicts this information (the father’s testimony, the mother’s testimony, Mr. Glassing’s address on his driver’s license and bank statements), I believe the testimonies of the two parties involved were most imperative.  The father is not at his residence very often and uses it as an office.  The mother said she did daycare in [Williams’s] home during the same period that Mr. Glassing was allegedly living with [Williams] and they were having disputes over the childcare co-payment.  It was a short enough period of time (from April to November) that Mr. Glassing may not have needed to change the address on his driver’s license and bank statements – and he was still receiving his mail at his father’s address (close to his employment).  There is no lease for Mr. Glassing to support his current residency.

 

D E C I S I O N

            When taking evidence and hearing testimony, the CDA acts in a quasi-judicial capacity.  Carter v. Olmsted County Hous. & Redev.  Auth., 574 N.W.2d 725, 729 (Minn. App. 1998).  A hearing officer’s administrative decision is presumed correct.  Reserve Mining Co. v. Herbst, 256 N.W.2d 808, 824 (Minn. 1977).  An agency’s quasi-judicial determinations are upheld unless “unconstitutional, outside the agency’s jurisdiction, procedurally defective, based on an erroneous legal theory, unsupported by substantial evidence, or arbitrary and capricious.”  Carter, 574 N.W.2d at 729.

            Under federal regulations governing section-8 rent assistance, the CDA may terminate the assistance of a program participant “[i]f the family violates any family obligations under the program.”  Section 8 Tenant Based Assistance, 24 C.F.R. § 982.552(c)(i) (2004).  A public housing authority (PHA) has discretion to determine when termination of housing assistance is an appropriate remedy.  See Dep’t of Hous.  and Urban Dev.  v. Rucker, 535 U.S. 125, 136, 122 S. Ct. 1230, 1236 (2002) (holding PHAs have discretion to evict tenants for drug-related activity of household members or guests); Minneapolis Pub. Hous. Auth. v. Lor, 591 N.W.2d 700, 703 (Minn. 1999) (discussing discretion of PHA to evict for criminal activities).  But the public housing authority is required to “consider all relevant circumstances such as the seriousness of the case.”  Section 8 Tenant Based Assistance, 24 C.F.R. § 982.552(c)(2)(i) (2004).

               A family obligation under the section-8 program is to provide complete and accurate information regarding household composition and income.  Section 8 Tenant Based Assistance, 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(b) (2004).  The evidence supports the hearing officer’s finding that Glassing resided in Williams’s household from April 2002 through November 2002.  Undisputed evidence shows that Williams failed to report that information to the CDA.

            Williams argues that Rice “essentially threw up her hands; she could not prove with any certainty that Mr. Glassing resided in the unit.”  But Rice testified that she determined that there was no issue for Dakota County because Williams had correctly reported the status of her household and Glassing’s income to Dakota County.  Consequently, Rice had no reason to prove that Glassing resided in the unit.

            Williams also argues that any violation in failing to provide accurate information was not serious enough to warrant termination of rent assistance.  But the hearing officer found that there were not “extenuating circumstances to be considered.”  We also note that the CDA would not have allowed Glassing to live with Williams because he had a felony conviction on his record.  The termination of rent assistance was not an abuse of discretion.[2]

            Williams next contends that the findings and evidence are insufficient to support the hearing officer’s decision. 

Agency action must be based on objective criteria applied to the facts and circumstances of the record at hand.  Agency discretion is not unlimited and must be explained.  In order to facilitate appellate review, an administrative agency must state the facts and conclusions essential to its decision with clarity and completeness.  The agency must explain on what evidence it is relying and how that evidence connects rationally with its choice of action. . . . To be legally sufficient, the ALJ must make an express credibility determination, must set forth the inconsistencies in the record which have led to the rejection of the Plaintiff’s testimony, must demonstrate that all relevant evidence was considered and evaluated, and must detail the reasons for discrediting pertinent testimony.  These requirements are not suggestive guidelines, but are mandates which impose affirmative duties upon the deliberative process.

 

            . . . .

 

            Federal section 8 regulations do not address burdens of proof, but U.S. Supreme Court precedent indicates that, where deprivations of benefits necessary for survival are concerned, the initial burden of proof must fall on the government.

 

Carter, 574 N.W.2d at 729-31 (quotations and citations omitted).

            The hearing officer’s order shows that the hearing officer carefully considered all of the evidence presented at the hearing.  The hearing officer’s findings show that the hearing officer found that Williams’s and Glassing’s representations to Dakota County that Glassing resided with Williams from April 2002 through November 2002 were credible and that the contrary testimony of Williams’s mother and Glassing’s father was not credible.  The findings meet the requirements stated in Carter.

            Williams’s argument regarding the insufficiency of the evidence is based on the assumption that the evidence supporting the hearing officer’s decision lacks credibility.  This court examines the findings to determine if they support the decision but does not retry facts or challenge the credibility determinations of the agency.  Senior v. City of Edina, 547 N.W.2d 411, 416 (Minn. App. 1996).

            Affirmed.



[1] The transcript states that the hearing date was November 1, 2003.  But the hearing officer’s decision states, and the parties agree, that the hearing date was October 20, 2003.

 

[2] Williams’s brief cites unpublished authority.  Unpublished opinions are of limited value in deciding an appeal.  See Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3(c) (2002) (stating “[u]npublished opinions of the court of appeals are not precedential”) (emphasis added); Powell v. Anderson, 660 N.W.2d 107, 123 (Minn. 2003) (noting that, “[a]s written, [the unpublished opinion at issue] is too summary to consider it an independent analysis of the merits [of the case]”).  Moreover, the unpublished authority cited by Williams is distinguishable from this case.