Head of THA to resign
TRENTON >> If it really didn’t work out the first time, what made city housing officials think something would change?
After only a year and a half on the job, Oliver “Bucky” Leggett announced he is stepping down as executive director of the Trenton HousingAuthority effective July 31, according to a copy of his Feb. 8 resignation letter that was obtained by The Trentonian.
“When honor, values and civility fail to comport with the obligation and responsibility of public service, it should be evident that ‘incompatibility’ is not simply a word,” wrote Leggett, who also previously served in the same position from 1993 until 2000. “It’s essential that the executive director and the Board of Commissioners have a uniform approach to both policy and operating decisions.”
In a statement, the commissioners said Wednesday the board accepted his letter of resignation.
“We appreciate his service to the Trenton Housing Authority and wish him Godspeed in his future endeavors,” the board stated. “We accept his generous offer of professional support as we move to recruit and transition to a new executive director.”
Leggett, who is a folk hero in the capital city for his unorthodox ways, was at odds with the housing authority’s Board of Commissioners in recent months for a handful of his decisions.
Some of his controversial moves included hiring excons as security guards with no policy in place, bringing on more inhouse staff by doing away with outside contractors and giving his son an $18,000 temporary job.
The board and Leggett came to a head at a special meeting on Jan. 28, where the commissioners gave Leggett a failing evaluation and the executive director’s supporters came to vocally support the housing authority’s embattled leader. The board was also in the process of deciding if Leggett would be renewed for another year.
“I believe what he did was something that showed his love for the Housing Authority,” Commissioner Kim Taylor said Tuesday of Leggett’s resignation. “We haven’t always fit together speaking for myself and the executive director. And I believe that in light of the things that have taken place within the housing authority, he felt that this was the most appropriate action that he could take for an entity that he loves.”
Taylor said after the contentious meeting, the board felt that certain corrective action needed to be taken in order to move forward.
“But in between that time, he presented the board with his resignation,” Gov. Chris Christie’s appointment to the board said. “Basically, we were just trying to decide how we could all work together to accomplish the goals and objectives that we had set for the executive director and for ourselves as commissioners.”
Leggett’s resignation was not publicly discussed at Wednesday’s commissioner meeting. Following the meeting, Leggett spoke candidly about his decision to leave with a Trentonian reporter.
“I think that it’s important in any sense of public responsibility that when you find that you’re not working on the same keel, what you do is you either fight it with those situations or you can step away from it.”
Leg gett, who earned an annual salary of $150,000, described the housing authority work as a“tough business .”
“It’s not just simply saying that you can get this stuff done,” he said. “People have a whole lot of questions about things and I want to make sure that I give it my very best.”
Since taking back over the job in August 2015, Leggett was also plagued with vacancy issues.
The housing authority reported in December that there were a total of 110 vacant units, despite a waiting list of more than 2,000 prospective tenants.
Leggett and housing officials blamed the quality of the tenants and their inability to come up with a deposit as a reason for the vacancies.
But commissioners also disclosed the vacant units were not being prepared in time. Leggett was performing that task inhouse, but the board voted last month to go out to bid for contracting services to spruce up the apartments in a timely fashion so that they could be filled.
Leggett’s selection to a second stint as executive director also led to allegations that it was a political move.
After finishing fifth in the 2014 Trenton mayoral race, Leggett endorsed Eric Jackson in the runoff election.
A campaign manager for defeated candidate Kathy McBride’s said there was some political payback in the works, claiming Leggett was prompted to run to steal votes from the former councilwoman.
In April—to keep the theoryalive—Leg get th ired Jackson’ s sister, Pamela Brooks, to an $85,000 job at the Trenton Housing Authority as the director of resident and community services.
One housing official, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, questioned if the board will appoint a new executive director “who is qualified or will it be political?” As for the 73-year-old Leggett, who described his exit as “light and gentile,” he does not have anything lined up in the future.
“I relish the idea of going back into private life,” he said. “I want to be back at home. I’m not even thinking about doing anything.”
As for his legacy, Leggett said “the large majority of people here appreciate” what he has done.
“There’s 3,000 people in this place and you say seven, eight people coming in here complaining,” Leggett said. “Mickey Mantle would like to have that percentage.”
Trenton Housing Authority Executive Director Oliver “Bucky” Leggett will resign on July 31, 2017.