Commissioners continue battle with Housing Authority
CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners fought back against what they called “fake news” from the Housing Authority Executive Director Jeremy R. White in an Oct. 23 letter of their own to residents of Housing Authority properties.
“Your Commissioners are energetically trying to make things better by questioning the rent policies, occupation rates and maintenance practices of the Housing Authority,” they wrote.
“Months ago we were disturbed by a sudden and large rent increase. We wanted to know the justification. While looking into this, we discovered what might be inconsistencies with vacant apartments, maintenance of the facilities and other shortcomings,” they continued.
The letter was in response to an October newsletter to residents from White that began: “Are the County Commissioners putting you at risk to be homeless? Is their unwillingness to act putting your health and safety at risk? Will their decision cause local landlords to lose millions of dollars in business.”
White goes on to suggest the Housing Authority could lose its Department of Housing and Urban Development funding and that the affordable housing and senior citizen residents might lose their homes or their subsidies and be forced to pay full market price for rents.
The Housing Authority oversees five housing developments: Fisher Manor, 25-unit large family housing; Foxxtown, 40-unit senior housing; Grasonville Terrace, 38-unit senior housing; Riverside Estates, 23-unit small family housing; and Terrapin Grove, 92-unit senior housing.
County Administrator Gregg Todd said the commissioners looked into White’s statement that HUD funding was in danger and found the claim baseless. He said White was using “scare tactics” to try to get the commissioners to do what he wanted.
In their response to the newsletter, the commissioners said they have repeatedly requested financial records and other information from the Housing Authority.
“This effort to improve the practices and polices of the Housing Authority has apparently upset the management,” they wrote.
One area of contention is that of board members. In a decision dated April 30, the Queen Anne’s County Ethics Commission, chaired by R. Dale Anderson, unanimously concluded Laresse Cathey, Tonya Brownjohnson and James Hynson have an interest (as defined by ethics law), distinguishable from the general public, in that they live in a unit owned and operated by the Housing Authority or receive vouchers for housing assistance from the Housing Authority resulting in a conflict of interest. Hynson is chairman of the five-member board; Brown-johnson is secretary.
According to the county Ethics Code, Chapter 8-11 (A) (1), the board members “cannot participate in any matter which there is an interest in the matter, as distinguished from the public generally, on them or a family member.”
The ethics complaint was filed Dec. 12, 2017, by Bonnie Walter, who at that time was president of Commission on Aging for the county and a member of the resident council for Terrapin Grove.
Walter, who still serves on the Commission on Aging, said she filed the complaint not just for herself but “on behalf of everybody who lives in senior housing.”
The Ethics Committee told the three board members they must either resign or resolve their conflicts of interest.
Cathey’s term of office expired June 30; the commissioners appointed her replacement, Judy Profelder of Chester, on Tuesday, May 8, according to Commissioner Mark Anderson. The newsletter from White lists Cathey’s spot as vacant and states the County Commissioners have failed to appoint a replacement.
Hynson and Brown-johnson’s current terms are set to expire June 30, 2020.
Todd said the Housing Authority appealed the Ethics Commission’s ruling, and the appeal is waiting its day in court. Apparently, HUD does require that one of the board members live on one of the properties, he said.
In the newsletter, White also talks about the needs for mold remediation and updated locks on safety equipment and missing master keys, pretty much blaming the county for all the problems. The county, in turn, says the fault lies with the Housing Authority.
“The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners will continue to do our best to provide safe, affordable, and well maintained residences. We do not have control over the day-today operations of the Housing Authority, but we will not stop attempting to see that you get the management and services which you and our county deserve,” the commissioners concluded.
Lt. Mark Meil of the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office recently received the non-academy instructor award from the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission. He has been a certified law enforcement instructor since 2001. He also is a certified federal law enforcement training instructor. “I’m very honored to work with a great professional such as Lt. Meil. He is very deserving of this accomplishment,” said Sheriff Gary Hofmann. Trainings Meil has conducted for the sheriff’s office include: Field Training Officer Refresher Course; Foot Pursuits; Field Training Program Lateral and New Hire; End of Watch – In Line of Duty LE Death; Body Camera Policy and Familiarization Course; Gas Mask Familiarization and Fit Test; Social Media; Workplace Harassment; and CALEA.