Leader of Atlanta’s housing authority formalizes departure date

By Maggie Lee

The boss of Atlanta’s housing authority turned in a resignation letter effective April 27 — with more than a year and a half left in her employment contract.

The chairman of the board of Atlanta Housing accepted a resignation letter from President and CEO Catherine Buell on Friday, according to a press release from the authority.

“Ms. Buell has been a strong champion of increasing affordable housing, and the Board of Commissioners thanks her for her leadership and for proudly serving the people of Atlanta,” said Board Chairman Christopher Edwards in the statement.

That formalizes an announcement made by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday that Buell is one of several top city leaders who would transition out of Atlanta City Hall as the new mayor puts together her leadership team.

Atlanta Housing counts about 22,000 households as its clients. It administers housing vouchers and also owns some residential communities for low-income Atlantans, among other programs.

It also helps develop communities that will have below-market-rate housing. Recent developments include those in the works or in planning stages at the former Herndon Homes site, the former Perry Homes site, the former Englewood Manor site, the Civic Center site, plus on part of what used to be Morris Brown property in Vine City.

Buell’s departure comes just as a Fulton County judge dismissed complaints brought by the authority in a high-profile case against Integral Development and related parties.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Atlanta Housing Authority President and CEO Catherine Buell, announced the Civic Center proposal at City Hall on Thursday.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Atlanta Housing President and CEO Catherine Buell, announced the Civic Center sale at City Hall in late 2017. (Photo by Maggie Lee)

Atlanta Housing was seeking to stop the transfer of land it now owns to joint ventures in which it would be part, alongside entities related to Integral. Integral’s counterclaims against the authority, which include breach of contract, are still ongoing in court.

Last month, Buell pushed back against Bottoms’ request for a resignation letter — a request the mayor had made to cabinet leaders who had come onboard during the tenure of her predecessor, Kasim Reed. Buell said in the letter that she is employed by her board, and that any employment questions would need to be directed to Edwards. Every member of the board was either appointed or reappointed by Reed.

Buell signed an employment agreement with the board in October, 2016 for a term set to last until January, 2020. The agreement set her starting annual base salary at $260,000. The contract says that Buell may terminate her employment with six months’ notice or as may be negotiated with the board.

Details on any severance package are still being finalized.

Buell will serve as a consultant for six months to ensure a smooth transition, according to the authority’s announcement.

The Atlanta Housing board would need to take action to put in place any successor or interim successor to Buell. A meeting could come as early as next week.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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