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Williams v. District of Columbia Housing Authority

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

August 15, 2019

Gail Williams, Petitioner,
v.
District of Columbia Housing Authority, Respondent.

          Submitted July 19, 2018

          On Petition for Review of a Decision and Order of the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA-374-16; DCHA-42-17 C)

          Gail Williams, pro se.

          Mario Cuahutle was on the brief for respondent.

          Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, McLeese, Associate Judge, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.

          NEBEKER, SENIOR JUDGE

         Petitioner Gail Williams seeks review of a decision by respondent District of Columbia Housing Authority ("DCHA") terminating her housing subsidy because she permitted a person who was not a member of her household to stay in her home. For the reasons discussed below, we reverse.

         I. Procedural Posture

         Ms. Williams resides in the District of Columbia and was receiving a housing subsidy from DCHA through the Housing Choice Voucher Program ("HCVP"). Following a hearing held on February 16 and April 25, 2017, a DCHA hearing officer issued an informal hearing decision, dated June 9, 2017, terminating Ms. Williams's participation in the HCVP program, as well as a supplemental memorandum, dated June 12, 2017, furthering explaining the informal hearing decision. Ms. Williams did not seek reconsideration by the Executive Director of DCHA. However, on August 28, 2017, she petitioned this court for review.

         Based on representations from the parties, submitted in response to a show-cause order from this court, we held that, due to a factual dispute regarding whether the June 2017 informal hearing decision was timely mailed to Ms. Williams, we could not determine whether her petition for review by this court was timely filed. Williams v. District of Columbia Hous. Auth., No. 17-AA-968, Mem. Op. & J. at 2 (D.C. Oct. 10, 2018). We therefore "remand[ed] the record to the agency to hold a hearing and to determine the facts relevant to the timeliness of Ms. Williams's petition for review." Id. at 3. On remand, the DCHA hearing officer held a hearing on January 30 and February 12, 2019, and, on March 4, 2019, issued an informal hearing decision. The March 2019 decision found that DCHA did not mail a copy of the June 2017 decision to Ms. Williams, and that she did not learn of the June 2017 decision until her then-counsel called DCHA on July 28, 2017, and was provided with a copy of the decision.[1] The hearing officer therefore held that DCHA had failed to provide timely notice of the June 2017 decision to Ms. Williams. Both Ms. Williams and DCHA requested reconsideration of the March 2019 decision by the Executive Director of DCHA.[2]On April 2, 2019, the Executive Director affirmed the portion of the March 2019 decision finding that DCHA did not timely notify Ms. Williams of the June 2017 decision, but vacated other portions that he determined exceeded the scope of the mandate on remand.[3] With remand complete, the supplemental record was submitted to this court.

         In light of DCHA's determination that Ms. Williams did not receive timely notice of the 2017 informal hearing decision, and its recitation of facts establishing that Ms. Williams did not receive the June 2017 decision until July 28, 2017 at the earliest, we construe her August 28, 2017 petition for review in this court as timely because, calculated according to this court's rules, she filed her petition on the thirtieth day after she received notice of the agency's decision. D.C. App. R. 15(a)(2) ("the petition for review [from an agency order or decision] must be filed within 30 days after notice is given"); D.C. App. R. 26(a)(1) ("in computing any period of time . . . [e]xclude the day of the act"); D.C. App. R. 26(a)(3) ("[i]nclude the last day of the period unless it is a Saturday [or] Sunday").

         We therefore proceed to consider the merits of Ms. Williams's petition, in which she challenges the June 2017 decision to terminate her subsidy based on the agency's determination that she had violated applicable regulations pertaining to guest stays in her home.

         II. Factual Background

         In 2016, DCHA issued to Ms. Williams three recommendations for termination from the HCVP program. On July 6, 2016, DCHA issued a recommendation for termination based upon alleged violations of 14 DCMR § 5808.7 pertaining to non-payment of rent, disturbance of neighbors, destruction of property, and unauthorized occupants. On September 30, 2016, DCHA issued another recommendation based upon alleged violations of 24 C.F.R. § 982.553(c) pertaining to engagement in criminal activity by a household member. Finally, on November 15, 2016, DCHA issued a third recommendation based upon alleged violations of 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(h)(2) and 14 DCMR § 5808.3(c) pertaining to allowing unauthorized occupants in the home.[4]

         Following an informal hearing held on November 16, 2016, a DCHA hearing officer issued an informal hearing decision dated November 18, 2016. That decision denied, for lack of sufficient evidence, DCHA's July 2016 recommendation for termination, but granted a continuance as to any issues raised ...


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