Head of THA to re­sign

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - By David Foster dfos­ter@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @tren­to­nian­david on Twit­ter

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.”

TREN­TO­NIAN FILE PHOTO

Tren­ton Hous­ing Author­ity Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Oliver “Bucky” Leggett will re­sign on July 31, 2017.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.