Com­mis­sion­ers con­tinue bat­tle with Hous­ing Au­thor­ity

Record Observer - - NEWS - By AN­GELA PRICE bay­times@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY LAUREN MOSES

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.

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