Niles housing director fired? Board votes yes, HUD says maybe not

The Executive Director of the Niles Housing Commission may, or may not, have been fired.

“Dysfunctional” was the term used to describe the situation at the Housing Commission Tuesday.

Last week, the board that oversees operations decided to part ways with the Executive Director David Martin.

But Tuesday brought questions about the board’s legal ability to do so.

Much of the tension between the director and the board began in February with attempts to evict a 91-year-old woman for allegedly making threats.

More than a dozen tenants of the Gateway Plaza gathered Tuesday to protest the board’s decision to part ways with Executive Director David Martin.

“We want the board fired, because they’re the ones that fired him (Martin)” said tenant Helen Benjamin.

“We don’t see any reason for him to be fired whatsoever,” added tenant Lisa Haney.

It quickly became clear that the tenants weren’t the only ones who had a problem with last week’s vote to oust the Executive Director.

Representatives of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also expressed concerns about the ability of some board members to legally serve.

“If you have two people who have a conflict of interest and they voted for a removal, then the question is, was that a valid vote?” asked Louis Berra, a Field Office Director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Because maybe you need a quorum. I think you need at least three to take appropriate action, so that’s a question the lawyers can probably answer for us.”

Berra says that one board member, Georgia Boggs, serves on both the Housing Commission Board and the Niles City Council. While the practice was tolerated in the past, Berra says it is no longer acceptable.

Berra also says that Board President Scott Clark was on the housing board, left, and then returned. The law requires that 12 months pass between a board member’s departure and reinstatement, and that wasn’t the case for Clark.

The potential bomb was dropped as the board huddled with H.U.D., the federal agency that funds the 128-tenant housing complex.

“Its not a bad situation,” said Board President Scott Clark. “Worst comes to worst, Georgia and I will resign and the city can put two more people on the board and they'll continue to keep things going here at the housing commission.”

One H.U.D. official used the word “dysfunctional” to describe the state of affairs at the housing commission these days.

“As long as you don’t' have an Executive Director running day to day operations, its dysfunctional and your missing an opportunity for grants that can help the community and help this particular facility,” said Berra. Berra contends that the Niles facility missed a deadline last Friday to submit an application for an annual capital improvement grant.

Clark remained optimistic that a solution could be found quickly. “We’ll get it taken care of. Niles has had no problem with H.U.D. for 40-years, and we’ll continue to have a good working relationship and do this right for the people.”

Clark said a new director or interim director would be named by the end of the week.

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