IHA commissioners lay off 13 maintenance workers

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday, June 21, and passed two resolutions to lay off 13 maintenance workers and approve a new shared-services agreement with the township.

“They had a meeting with the commissioners in the back and, the next thing you know, they came back out with two resolutions and one of them was laying off the maintenance department workers and the other was about the township,” said former IHA Commissioner and current resident Delores Calloway on Tuesday, June 21. “When they said they were laying off the maintenance workers, everybody got upset. It was done dirty.”

Calloway said the decision by the commissioners was not in the best interest of IHA residents.

“What are you going to do about maintenance now and this guy David Brown getting $210,000 a year?” asked Calloway. “We don’t even have a summer program for our kids and I went down to Trenton 25 years ago and fought for that. The only thing the Crescent Lane kids have is a fire hydrant.”

Caleb Bryant, shop steward for Service Employees International Union Local 617, which represents him, was one of the 13 workers to be laid off. He said that, despite denials from Vauss and other township officials, it appears that Irvington Public Works Department employees who said weeks ago they would soon be replacing him and the other IHA workers were telling the truth.

“The board of commissioners started the meeting, went back and had a closed session for about an hour, then they came out and unanimously approved the layoffs and unanimously approved the shared-services agreement with the township of Irvington,” said Bryant on Tuesday, June 21. “This is an unjust decision by the board of commissioners. This just shows that they support (IHA Executive Director)David Brown and everything that he does. They are not acting in the best interests of the residents.”

Bryant said he is not bitter about being laid off, but he is disappointed, because now the residents he has served for years are facing an uncertain future. He said the numerous inspections, reports of financial mismanagement and other issues that have come to light since the layoffs were announced in April should be red flags for investigators from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the IHA.

“The most damning thing is the layoff has been proposed for months,” said Bryant. “We had a meeting last week. Why not do the layoffs last week? They were so fearful of the residents that they had the police here for this meeting. This is an unjust decision and we’re going to fight on until we get some kind of fair and equal resolution.”

Vauss said he couldn’t confirm that the meeting Calloway and Bryant described actually occurred. He did acknowledge that, as of Tuesday, June 21, the township and the IHA now have an agreement for shared services “on the record.”

“Our position was that we weren’t going to let the Housing Authority fail for the residents’ sake,” said Vauss on Tuesday, June 21. “Whatever their internal politics of how they arrived at this situation is neither here nor there. Right now it may be a temporary solution, because we don’t know how it’s going to go. Our goal was to come in and provide quality-of-life services for the residents of the Irvington Housing Authority at the Housing Authority’s request.”

Vauss said the IHA had to formally request aid from the township before his administration could step in. Now that is done, he said, so it’s time to get to work fixing the problems at the IHA.

“They officially asked for help in the form of a shared-services agreement,” Vauss said. “Now the plan is to go in there and literally clean the place up from top to bottom. Our goal is to give them a fresh start and help them improve the quality of life for the Housing Authority residents, like Malcolm X said — by any means necessary.”

Calloway said that sounds good. She said she is hoping for the best, when it comes to the layoffs and the future of the IHA and its residents, but she’s also expecting the worst and preparing for it.

Attempts to contact Brown and members of the IHA board of commissioners for comment about the meeting Tuesday, June 21, the maintenance department layoffs and the new shared-services agreement with the township were unsuccessful by press time this week.