Former Atlanta Housing boss appeals to City Hall in long disputeAtlanta Housing, formerly known as the Atlanta Housing Authority. Credit: Maggie Lee
By Maggie Lee
The longtime leader of Atlanta’s housing authority says she hopes City Hall will try and lean on her old employer in a long legal fight about money and reputation.
Renee Glover said that the nearly two-year-long legal dispute is costing her hundreds of thousands of personal dollars — and she accuses Atlanta Housing of smearing her with a fight on the public dime.
“They’ve got more taxpayer dollars to spend than certainly I have resources. A demand for accountability has got to be made,” Glover said via phone on Thursday.
Glover headed Atlanta Housing (then called the Atlanta Housing Authority) for almost 20 years until 2013. But she was briefly a defendant in a city lawsuit brought by the city in late 2017. And she’s trying to get her legal bills paid.
In a letter Thursday, Glover asked Atlanta City Council members and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to “bring transparency to this matter.”
In December 2017, the city of Atlanta sued Glover as well as Egbert Perry and the Integral Group, a national construction company that Perry founded. The suit alleged that she wrongly gave the company sweetheart land deals.
Four months later, under new Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the city dropped the lawsuit.
Glover then sued the authority, accusing it and former Mayor Kasim Reed of trying to smear her; she’s also looking to get her legal costs covered by AH, as the lawsuit came from her time as an employee there. But AH has fought that argument in court.
Atlanta Housing spokesman Jeff Dickerson said via Thursday email that AH’s “attorneys have been actively working with Ms. Glover’s attorney, William Hill, to determine an accurate computation of the attorney fees incurred by Ms. Glover that are eligible to be paid by Atlanta Housing pursuant to her contracts.”
Former Mayor Reed is not a party to the arbitration and he has no involvement in the proceedings.
Glover charges that her attorney was told by AH’s attorney — former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia Leah Ward Sears — that AH will not reimburse Glover. Glover’s letter says it appears that AH wants to disavow her separation agreement and litigate the city’s 2017 lawsuit.
The two sides have been in talks since early 2018, with both sides paying lawyers the whole time. Earlier this year, a payout worth $265,000 was on AH’s agenda, but Glover’s attorney said at the time that his client had withdrawn support from the deal after it sat for months without AH action.
Dickerson said that AH has not acted in any way to delay resolution. “To the contrary, Atlanta Housing has been actively working to conclude the matter and has made several inquiries with Ms. Glover’s attorney to see if a settlement could be reached prior to the arbitration, scheduled for November 11, 2019,” Dickerson said.
Glover said that this is also harming her reputation; that when she speaks to people about opportunities, they want to know what’s the status of the legal dispute.
And AH has struggled to find or keep a permanent replacement for Glover.
Glover oversaw the demolition of most of the city’s large public housing projects in favor of a model of building mixed-income developments. It’s an idea that’s since been followed in much of the country. The idea is it’s easier to climb up the economic ladder when living in a mixed-income, economically vibrant community rather than in an area of concentrated high poverty.
But the model also has critics, who say it simply displaces poor people. And Glover herself had critics, in part because she and some of her top staff were some of the highest-paid housing authority leaders in the country.
There’s also separate but related litigation: AH has been in court since 2017 with Integral and four related companies, over the four land transactions that the city lawsuit alleged amounted to a sweetheart deal.
A judge threw out AH’s claims. The Integral parties then responded with litigation seeking to enforce what they say are their contractual rights.
In each deal, an Integral-related company wants to exercise an option to buy land for market-rate housing, all adjacent to mostly below-market-rate housing that they’ve already developed with AH.
The companies will get the empty land at a discount from today’s market price, but AH will get a share of the building profits.
It’s a model that Glover stands by: putting market-rate and below-market-rate housing together, around amenities like shops. And she still thinks it’s a good deal for the authority.
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said on Thursday afternoon that she’s drafting a letter to her Council colleagues to see if there’s appetite for Council to make a public statement via a resolution.
“I think we need to resolve this issue. Not only with Renee Glover but with Egbert Perry [of Integral.] Both of them have been going on so long. I was disappointed based on what I have read in her letter, it appears the AHA is starting again at square one, when in fact they were supposed to be arbitrating or mediating to come to a resolution,” Moore said.
“I have said that … I believe the mayor really needs to intervene, needs to be in touch with those board members and encourage them to seek a resolution to this issue, Moore said.
The Council can’t really make AH do anything — AH is an authority, not a department of the city. However, its board members are picked by the mayor of Atlanta and confirmed by Council. But five of the six current board members were first appointed or most recently reappointed by Reed, not Bottoms.
Glover also alleged that Reed is still influencing AH via AH employees and city employees.
A spokesperson with Bottoms’ office said via email that “The allegation that anyone but the city attorney dictates city legal decisions is baseless. The city is not party to the contract or the arbitration, as it is no longer a party in this case.”