By Maria Saporta
Efforts to get rid of Atlanta Housing Authority executive director Renee Glover are at a complete standstill.
That appears to be a total change of direction for the Atlanta Housing Authority board, which last month seemed intent on moving as quickly as possible to negotiate a separation agreement with Glover.
At the Oct. 19 board meeting, the board approved a motion made by member Daniel Halpern to “retain counsel to assist the Board of Commissioners with this process and work with Ms. Glover’s lawyers and push this process along in an expeditious way.”
Halpern, who was elected board chair at the same meeting, wanted the hiring of an AHA lawyer to be sole sourced so the process could “begin right away.”
Now, six weeks later, there is no indication that the AHA board has even begun the process of hiring an attorney to begin negotiating with Glover’s lawyer on her departure. Glover is in the second year of a five-year contract, and if AHA were to buy out her contract, she could receive up to $1.2 million.
Asked if there had been any movement on those negotiations, Glover said: “No progress yet.”
The topic did not even come up during the public portion meeting of the AHA board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
After the meeting, Halpern said there was no rush.
“We have not hired a law firm, Halpern said. “There was never a timetable.”
Halpern then added that “the board is in a position where we are taking a deliberate and conservative approach to what we are doing, There’s no hurry on our end. There’s nothing forcing us to do anything today or tomorrow.”
Instead, Halpern said the board was more concerned with possible federal budget cuts that could impact AHA’s operations.
“The situation that is much more dire is what’s happening in Washington,” Halpern added.
Halpern, who was appointed to the AHA board in 2010 by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, also said that the mayor has not been involved in the current awkward situation with Glover.
“The only thing that the mayor has told me is: I’ have appointed you, and I trust that you’ll use good judgment,’” Halpern said.
Ever since Reed was elected mayor two years ago, he has not had a formal meeting with Glover to talk about the direction of AHA. Reed was particularly upset when the board renewed Glover’s five-year contract in July, 2010, because he is philosophically opposed to city employees have employment contracts.
When the news that Glover and the board were discussing a possible separation a couple of months ago, the mayor also was quite vocal that it was time to make a change at AHA saying that 17 years in that job was long enough.
City Hall officials also downplayed the role Glover had played in transforming the public housing authority from “the projects” to mixed-income communities. Glover has been recognized nationally as being one of the top housing officials in the country.
Now the AHA board and city officials are speaking much more favorably about Glover.
“I’m very comfortable with Renee’s ability to lead this organization on a day-to-day basis,” Halpern said. “The majority, if not all of the board, is thankful and appreciative of where Renee has taken this institution.”
Asked if it was possible that Glover could remain as AHA’s director, Halpern answered: “It’s certainly one of many options.”
At the October meeting of the private Commerce Club board, a couple of high-level executives reportedly asked Reed about Glover. Supposedly, Reed was quite complementary of Glover in that setting, and rather that saying “when Glover leaves,” the mayor said: “if Glover leaves.”
It might be a matter of money and the cost of buying out Glover’s contract. It could be that some AHA board members are waiting for Glover to leave on her own, which would mean they wouldn’t have to buy her out.
Either way, the AHA currently is in limbo. Glover, however, continues to run the agency despite not having any indication of how long she’ll be in charge.
“I think anything we would do is in a deliberative way and making sure we are good custodians of public funds,” Halpern said. “You have a very accomplished, professional CEO and you have six very professional and passionate board members.”
The tenor at Wednesday’s board meeting was far more cordial than recent AHA board meetings, giving little indication of all the uncertainty that exists below the surface. In the past year, the authority’s meetings were much more contentious with several of the Reed-appointed board members — Halpern, Wayne Jones and James Allen Jr. — scrutinizing AHA’s policies and Glover’s leadership.
The only time of disagreement at the board meeting was over the scope of a motion that had passed at the October meeting — which called for all employee firings of AHA staff to be approved by the board.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Jones said he wanted the board to also have to approve all hiring and all demotions.
Past Chairman Cecil Phillips, once again, objected, saying that it was putting the board in an “untenable, impossible position of having to micro-manage” AHA’s operations.
“If somebody does something for which they should be fired, such as someone getting drunk on the job, they would have to wait until the board convenes,” Phillips said.
Allen, who worked for AHA for 25 years before retiring, said: “I wouldn’t want the board to have the authority from now until forever. But we have got to get things in place and treat people right. If there were drunk people on the job, you would get rid of those people (without having to go to the board).”
But Phillips said that would be impossible because of the board’s motion. Plus, he expressed concern that board meetings would last for hours. “We don’t have the time to do it,” he said. “It’s not the purview of the board.”
The expanded motion, however, passed with a 4-to-1 vote. Halpern, Jones, Allen and Vice Chair Justine Boyd voted in favor; Phillips voted against, and long-time board member Paulyne White abstained.
Interestingly enough, Halpern acknowledged that the operations at AHA were quite complex.
“I went into it knowing nothing, and now I think that on certain days, I know slightly more than nothing,” Halpern said. “It’s very complicated.”