AHA board hastens Renee Glover’s exit; elects Mayor Reed’s appointee as chair

By David Pendered

This story has been updated.

Renee Glover will be gone from the Atlanta Housing Authority as fast as the lawyers can reach a deal, following a vote Wednesday by the AHA board of commissioners.

The AHA board elected Dan Halpern as chairman. Halpern, appointed to the board by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, has been a persistent critic of Glover’s management of the city’s housing authority.

The board adopted new procedures that require the board to vote on all firings; new contracts valued at $10,000 or more; and contract extensions of $10,000 or more.

Halpern submitted the motion to hire lawyers to handle Glover’s departure. The motion was 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 asked if the process of hiring a lawyer could be sole sourced in order “to begin right away.” A staffer responded that existing procedures would allow the process to be expedited and begin by the week’s end.

Later in the meeting, Halpern was elected chairman of the AHA board. Commissioner Justine Boyd will continue as vice chairman. Current board Chairman Cecil Phillips will remain on the board as a commissioner.

Phillips argued against the board adopting the measures to oversee contracts at the $10,000 level, and to be involved in decisions to fire an employee.

About 170 contracts will be affected, a staff member said.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Phillips said of the spending oversight. “If every one of those contracts is going to require board approval, our meetings are going to grow excessively long.’

Halpern responded: “I understand. But in the nature of full disclosure, I think it’s necessary.”

Commissioner Wayne Jones then moved to have the board be involved in all employee firings.

“During this transition [of Glover’s departure], we don’t want anyone fired, or terminated, or busted down out of vindictiveness,” Jones said. “I’ve heard of two people being fired out of Human Resources.”

Glover did not respond. She rarely spoke durng the meeting, and did not deliver a CEO report.

Phillips opposed the motion.

“If the board is going to make employment decisions like that, I think it would be a big step backward and would be where the board was in 1994 – when I came,” Phillps said

Halpern responded: “I know there’s a lot of phone calls coming up and a lot of rumor, speculation and innuendo. Especially in light of Ms. Glover announcing a few weeks ago [that she intended to depart]. All we’re asking for is to be made aware of what’s going on.”

Halpern said he had dinner with Glover shortly after his appointment. He said he promised that he wouldn’t get involved in minutia.

“Unfortunately, when you’re not getting access to all the information at the 30,000 foot level, we unfortunately have to go to the ground level,” Halpern said. It’s not standard course. It’s not the best course. But during this transition, it is the best course. We are here as volunteer leaders to oversee the Atlanta Housing Authority.”

Phillips made his final comment before calling the vote:

“We cannot act on rumor and innuendo.”

Later in the meeting, Phillips recollected the deep problems AHA faced in that era. The agency was at risk of being taken over by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Chicago and Atlanta were the two worst housing authorities in the country,” Phillips said. “They were within months of being put into receivership of HUD. Chicago was put into receivership.”

That part of the story ended differently in Atlanta.

AHA hired Renee Glover and the agency embarked on what became the national model of tearing down blighted pockets of public housing and replacing them with mixed income communities. Residents who didn’t return to the new communities received vouchers to acquire housing elsewhere.

Halpern and Phillips shared one last exchange at the end of the meeting.

Halpern said he appreciated all the work that has been done by AHA since 1994.

“No doubt about that,” Halpern said. “While we’ve had some robust conversation, we remember from wence we came.”

“From your lips to God’s ear,” Phillips said.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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