IRVINGTON, NJ — Changes abound at the Irvington Housing Authority as, according to a confirmation by Mayor Tony Vauss, Carmelo Garcia is out as the new executive director of the IHA Board of Commissioners, as is Econometrica, a company hired to help “fix” the public housing agency.
Officials from the Elizabeth Housing Agency, which had been tapped to manage the Irvington Housing Authority after former Executive Director David Brown was fired for cause earlier this year, declined to comment on the record about the Irvington public housing agency, but did state that, for reasons they declined to explain, they are no longer involved with the ongoing search to replace Brown.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rejected Resolution No. 2017-07, which gave Elizabeth Housing Authority Executive Director William Jones control of the Irvington Housing Authority and explained why HUD had ordered the commissioners to turn over control of the Irvington operation to the Elizabeth Housing Authority, on Monday, Feb. 20. Saying it was too vaguely worded, HUD asked the IHA commissioners to rewrite the resolution using more specific language before resubmitting it for review and approval. Before this happened, however, Garcia was hired by IHA Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Darlene Brown and the new board majority.
According to Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, HUD had tapped Jones to come in and replace Brown, but changed their minds when he asked for $200,000 to bring in a “team” to do so. Instead, IHA board voted to hire Garcia for $155,000, while Paul Watkins, an Econometrica official, told residents at an early morning meeting on Friday, April 28, that his company would be responsible for turning the township’s public housing agency around.
But now Econometrica and Garcia are out and former IHA Commissioner and acting Executive Director Kathleen Witcher said whoever eventually replaces them must be thoroughly vetted before being hired.
“I would think that the board accepts advice from HUD agency officials before something else happens,” said Witcher on Monday, May 15. “I would also want to know how the selection of the director is being processed by the board. As stated before, there can be a national search for candidates that is sent with the assistance of HUD national and regional offices. The new director must have a good track record working in other (housing authorities) that are similar. It is not unusual for directors to come across states or across the country to hired positions with HUD.”