IRVINGTON, NJ — Carmelo Garcia hadn’t even had the opportunity to get used to his position as executive director of the Irvington Housing Authority when, on Wednesday, May 10, the agency’s Board of Commissioners rescinded his contract at its meeting at 624 Nye Ave.
The board immediately went into private session, returning an hour later to vote to rescind the resolution appointing Garcia as the new executive director and the resolution extending the legal services of the Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley law firm, which had been approved at the meeting Wednesday, April 19. This was followed by the resignation of IHA Board of Commissioners Treasurer Carolyn Jenkins, who had served as the group’s chairwoman and acting executive director after former Executive Director David Brown was fired Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Jenkins’ resignation was confirmed by Elouise McDaniel, president of the Irvington Joint Block Association and Nesbitt Terrace Block Association, on Friday, May 12. McDaniel produced a copy of a the Irvington Municipal Council’s meeting agenda from Wednesday, April 26, wherein item 18 on the non-consent agenda called for the “Housing Authority replacement appointment — Ana Scott replacing Carolyn Jenkins.”
Prior to her resignation, Jenkins had been replaced as IHA Commission chairwoman by Darlene Brown at its meeting on Wednesday, April 19, and subsequently joined Commissioner Calvin Bethea in voting against Garcia’s appointment.
The vote to confirm Garcia’s appointment at the meeting on Wednesday, April 19, was 4-2, with one member abstaining. Garcia’s appointment was contested by some residents, who said the town’s governing body should have allowed the residents to vote to choose their own representative to the board.
Jenkins could not be reached for comment about her resignation by press time this week.
Darlene Brown was unavailable for comment about Jenkins resignation, Scott’s appointment, Garcia’s job status or the Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley legal service contract by press time this week. As the current IHA Board of Commissioners chairwoman, she is now the acting executive director, until someone is hired to replace Garcia.
“It is the commissioners’ decision that rules in a Housing Authority; however, it is looking like many of the commissioners need to make contact with the current leaders of HUD at the regional and national levels. I think it is unheard of to rescind the resolutions, however well-intentioned the board is, but in many cases there may be afterthoughts and that is good,” said former IHA Commissioner and acting Executive Director Kathleen Witcher on Monday, May 15. Witcher also currently serves as the vice president of the Irvington NAACP.
“With possible litigation from two sides ongoing after (David) Brown’s termination as director, it is the chairman of the board who steps in until a new director is found. The first choice apparently was botched, and for reasons unannounced by the board at this time. I am sorry that Commissioner Jenkins decided to remove herself from the board. She was toeing the line. I am hearing about other staff changes,” Witcher said.
Garcia’s employment history is not without controversy. He was fired in 2014 from the Hoboken Housing Authority amid allegations of the lack of documentation for $100,000 worth of capital projects expenditures.
“It is now time for HUD to completely take over the authority,” Caleb Bryant, SEIU Local 617 Workers United union shop steward, Friday, May 12. “The Garcia debacle highlights the incompetence of the board of commissioners. To hire a director with a sketchy history was foolish and ignorant, after terminating a director for cause. A new director with an impeccable record should have been the goal.”
Mayor Tony Vauss declined to comment on any of the ongoing issues at the Irvington Housing Authority, although council President David Lyons did go on record regarding IHA issues and how they relate to the township.
“We did a resolution to end the relationship with the Housing Authority,” said Lyons on Tuesday, May 2, with regard to the shared services agreement between the township and the IHA that Vauss and Brown made last year.