IHA commissioners approve partnership with Elizabeth Housing Authority

Photo by Chris Sykes
The Irvington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners prepares to start its special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 15, where it unanimously voted to approve three resolutions that facilitated a new partnership with the Elizabeth Housing Authority that is taking over the township public housing agency’s finances and day-to-day operations, according to the dictates of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

IRVINGTON, NJ — In a special meeting, the Irvington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners met Wednesday, Feb. 15, to unanimously approve three new resolutions, giving control of the township’s public housing agency to William D. Jones, the executive director of the city of Elizabeth Housing Authority.

This action took place one week after a special meeting Wednesday, Feb. 8, wherein the IHA Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve two resolutions terminating the employment of its executive director, David Brown, for cause and giving him the equivalent of four months’ severance pay. IHA board secretary Carolyn Jenkins then assumed control of the local agency and became the IHA interim executive director. Annette Beasley is the current chairwoman of the IHA Board of Commissioners.

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Beasley, Jenkins and the four other current IHA commissioners unanimously approved resolutions 2017-07, 2017-08 and 2017-09, giving Jones total control of the IHA’s finances and day-to-day operations. Unlike Resolutions 2017-08 and 2017-09, however, Resolution 2017-07 was not listed on the official meeting agenda.

Jenkins read aloud Resolution 2017-07 for the official minutes of the special meeting, which were being taped, as usual.

“Whereas the Irvington Housing Authority has been put on the HUD (Public Housing Agency) failing list. Whereas the Irvington Housing Authority may be targeted for HUD receivership, it is hereby requested that a contract be awarded to the city of Elizabeth Housing Authority,” Jenkins read.

When Jones was contacted by the Irvington Herald on Friday, Feb. 17, he declined to make an official statement about the Elizabeth Housing Authority taking control of the IHA, but did say the reason Jenkins probably read the resolution instead of listing it in writing on the meeting agenda was because it had not yet been typed.

“It is public information, so it is available to the public,” Jones said Friday, Feb. 17. He later said that a copy of Resolution 2017-07 wasn’t included on the agenda because “This has to be approved by HUD,” adding it would be added “in a few days,” Monday, Feb. 20.

NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher, herself a former IHA board member, suggested all the charges could not be read because of pending personnel matters. Regarding transparency from Jenkins and the current IHA board, Witcher said state law is quite clear and was recently updated.

“From a very recent New Jersey court decision, ‘boards’ are required to generate executive session minutes in a reasonable time period,” said Witcher on Monday, Feb. 20.

Resolution 2017-07 gives Jones control of the IHA and gives the reasons the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development had ordered the commissioners to cede control of the Irvington operation to the Elizabeth Housing Authority; Resolution 2017-08 authorizes Jones, Beasley and Jenkins “as appointed, to serve as signatories” on the IHA “general fund bank account;” and Resolution 2017-09 authorizes them to do the same on the IHA “bank accounts, business fund and Section 8 Voucher account.”

Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss previously said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development had tapped Diane Johnson, a former official with the Newark Regional Housing Department, to take control of the IHA after Brown’s departure.

Johnson reportedly works as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; calls to the office of HUD Regional Public Housing Director Sonia Burgos seeking confirmation of Johnson’s appointment were not returned by press time this week.

Vauss said Jones and the Elizabeth Housing Authority taking control of the IHA’s finances and day-to-day operations is a “win-win” situation for the public housing residents and the township. Last year, his administration entered into a shared services agreement with Brown and the IHA.

“Our partnership is with the Elizabeth Housing Authority, not an individual,” said Vauss on Sunday, Feb. 19. “The EHA is a model housing authority and that … to my understanding, is the reason the IHA is partnering with the EHA. It’s good for me, because I like to be in win-win situations on all sides where, either way, we’re fine.