FORT LAUDERDALE – Jacqueline Tufts, executive director of the New Visions Community Development Corp., was escorted from her office this week and suspended without pay.
The suspension followed allegations that Tufts improperly used the non-profit agency to build a house for herself with discounts that were intended for people who needed help in purchasing their homes.
The board of directors of the Fort Lauderdale-based agency voted to suspend Tufts following South Florida Times reports of her alleged improprieties. The suspension also followed new allegations that Tufts may have improperly written agency checks that were made payable to one of the board members.
The vote took place on the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 14. Tufts was allowed to gather her personal belongings before she was escorted from her office that day at 950 NW 11th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale, according to sources close to the non-profit agency who did not wish to be identified.
Tufts has not responded to calls or emails seeking comment. The Rev. Clarence “C.E.’’ Glover, CEO of New Visions CDC, could not be reached for comment, either. New Visions is affiliated with Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, of which Glover is the pastor.
Donna Waldron, chairperson of the New Visions board of directors, has not responded to questions about the suspension.
The newspaper began investigating the matter after Shawanda Small, a 40-year-old single mother of two who utilized New Visions to purchase her home at a cost of $232,000, questioned the $16,000 discount Tufts set for her own home, even though the homes are the same, at least on paper. The houses are located next door to each other in the Sweeting Estates neighborhood south of Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale . Both were built by the same construction company, HBR Developers.
“That’s good, but what took them so long?” Small asked after learning of the suspension. “I didn’t think they would do anything to her, but I’m still waiting for them to correct how she overcharged me.”
Mayor Jim Naugle, who learned of the suspension from a reporter, said, “I think it would be a good business practice for them to give notice that she no longer represents their agency.”
Although details are scarce, there are also new concerns about how Tufts used funds from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidiary, Mission of Peace National Corp. Mission of Peace provides funding to approved housing agencies for credit and other counseling associated with homeownership.
Tufts first came under scrutiny in December after a series of South Florida Times investigative reports revealed that she directed her agency to build her a home and that she received special discounts on the home’s construction that were intended for the agency’s affordable-home clients.
After board members learned of Tufts’ plans to build a home through the agency in 2005, the board approved the construction, with the stipulations that she pay a market-value price for it, and that she would pay the costs to manage the project.
An additional den, a covered patio and structural changes were added to the first floor of Tufts’ home. An enlarged master bedroom and bath, as well as a reconfigured floor plan and roof changes were completed on the second level during construction, all at a discount usually reserved for the agency’s low- to moderate-income clients.
Tufts was making $70,000 a year as the agency’s executive director.
Pictured above is Jacqueline Tufts.