“By the course of business, when we issue violations, Nycha does their own check,” Michel Meulens, a Health Department inspector, testified in October 2017 in a trial involving a child who tested positive for lead in 2003. The case ended in a settlement.
Mr. Clarke, who declined to comment for this article, would eventually rise to the upper echelons of the authority, as a senior vice president for operations. He was one of several top executives to be forced out late last year over his handling of the lead paint scandal. Shola Olatoye, the chairwoman of Nycha, was also among the executives who were ousted. She declined a request for comment.
The goal in challenging the Health Department’s findings, much like it was for the paint companies years before, was to shield the city from lawsuits by showing that the high lead levels in these children came from somewhere other than the home where they lived and played, officials said. The stakes are high: In January, a jury ordered Nycha to pay $57 million to the family of Dakota Jade Taylor, a child with high levels of lead in her blood. The sum is being negotiated.
The authority believed its approach was valid because the Health Department so often rescinded its orders, Stanley Brezenoff, the interim Nycha chairman, said recently in an interview.
The Housing Authority cannot say precisely when it began challenging the city’s own findings of lead. Staffers recalled that the practice dates at least to the late 1990s, Jasmine Blake, an authority spokeswoman, wrote in an emailed statement.
It continued until September when, after inquiries from The Times, the de Blasio administration reversed course.
“We are now in a posture of not contesting,” Mr. Brezenoff said. “Whatever the merits of a particular case, or whatever is involved, we’re accepting whatever the finding of the Health Department is.”