CEA hoped that with Herm Oberholzer’s resignation from the Housing Authority of Douglas County Board of Commissioners our stress and strife was over, but not so.
It seems that the appointment process to replace him leaves all kinds of questions about what is still going on at HADCO.
There is a controversy that has arisen regarding the recent appointment of Ronald Weir to the Housing Authority of Douglas County Board of Commissioners by Douglas County Commissioners to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Herm Oberholzer. The DC Commissioners appointed Mr. Weir after two pieces of information were given to them by HADCO staff. Unfortunately, in one instance, which is a big one, the information was wrong. In the other, the information provided to the DC Commissioners made them believe something that was not true.
This matter is going to be on the agenda for the HADCO Board of Commissioners meeting that is being held this Thursday, October 22nd, 12:30 p.m. in the Meyer’s Building down the street from HADCO’s main office.
Here the problem:
The first one: HADCO staff told County staff that there could only be one “resident” commissioner. This is not true. In fact, federal law prohibits denying anyone from being considered for a board seat just because he or she is a resident.
The second one: HADCO’s Executive Director Dolly Newman seems to have taken it upon herself to recommend Mr. Weir without consulting with the current HADCO Board. Further her letter to the DC Commissioners regarding the recommendation seemed to imply that the current Board of HADCO also recommended Mr. Weir when it had not–at least that is my understanding about how the DC Commissioners took it. It was two former board members who had recommended Mr. Weir back in April.
Below are copies of emails sent to the DC Commissioners from CEA regarding this as well as the letter of recommendation regarding Mr. Weir that HADCO Executive Director, Dolly Newman sent to the DC Commissioners. Ms. Newman’s letter sets out the other problem regarding this appointment.
Over the past several weeks we have tried to work with the DC Commissioners to get them to rescind Mr. Weir’s appointment upon the discrimination against the residents. However, we have had little luck in convincing them to do so.
One of the residents who feels his rights were violated has contacted HUD to make a formal complaint.
This issue has also created more stress on the HADCO board which may have resulted in the resignation of Dan Jones from the HADCO board this week.
I strongly believe that the last two events would have been avoided if the Douglas County Commissioners had acted to rectify the situation, which only they can do under the law.
CEA member and HADCO Commissioner Jamie Sanchez has expressed her concerns about this appointment process to the Douglas County Commissioners and intends to pursue resolving the problems that lead to the miscommunications set out above. However, neither she nor any other HADCO Commission member can do anything about the appointment because that is one of the only things about the housing authority that he DC Commissioners have a say about.
If you want to help make sure that there is a fair process for selecting HADCO, as well as other Douglas County Board and Commission members contact the Douglas County Commissioners.
Copy original CEA email to Douglas County Commissioners:
Dear Douglas County Commissioners:
While waiting for the process of the interim appointment to the HADCO board to unfold, I found out that at last week’s Douglas County Commissioner’s meeting you appointed Ron Weir to fill the unexpired term of Herm Oberholzer. I was quite surprised that this happened so I listened to the audio recording of the meeting. This only created more surprised after hearing the reasons you appointed Mr. Weir.
The first reason was that you could not consider three of the five applicants for the position because they were residents who receive a benefit from the program. The second reason was that the HADCO Board of Commissioners recommended him. Both of these reasons are not based in fact. Law does not limit the number of HADCO residents on the commission to one. The HADCO Board of Commissioners did not recommend Mr. Weir over Mr. Dean Beyers or the three HADCO residents. They made no recommendation at all.
Number of Residents on Board:
Three of the five applicants for the open position were summarily removed from consideration because it was asserted that the “law” would not allow more than one HADCO resident to be on their board. Although it is not quite clear to me where this information came from, it is clear it is not consistent with current state or federal law. Oregon Revised Statute 456.095 sets out the appointment of housing authority commissioners and subsection (4) states:
“Persons appointed to the commission shall include a variety of occupations. At least one commissioner, but not more than two commissioners, appointed under subsection (1)(a) of this section must be a resident who receives direct assistance from the housing authority.” (emphasis added)
It is clear under Oregon law that two people on HADCO’s Board can be residents. Although local Public Housing Authority (PHA) boards may be made up of either five, seven or nine commissioners, nothing in the state law supports the contention that a five member PHA board can only have one resident. However, this is not all.
It is possible that Oregon law may be in conflict with federal code and regulation on this matter, but not because they are allowing two resident members instead of one, but because Oregon limits the number of residents at all. The non-discrimination provisions of 42 United States Code section dealing with this issue as well as the implementing regulations set out in Title 24 of the Code of Federal Regulation Section 964.430 specficially prohibit governing bodies from limiting the number of resident members who serve on the PHA board. Here is the language of the CFR:
24 CFR 964.430 Nondiscrimination.
“(b) Residence status. A governing board may not prohibit any person from serving on the governing board because that person is a resident of a public housing project or is assisted under section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f). (emphasis added)
Federal law and regulation are unambiguous about this issue and limiting the number of residents who serve on HADCO’s Commission is not allowed. Yet that is what has happened in this recent appointment. None of the three residents who applied or reapplied were even considered for the position in direct violation of federal law.
HADCO Board Recommendation:
Next is the issue of the assertion that the HADCO Board of Commissioners recommended Ron Weir. This is blatantly and unequivocally a misrepresentation of the truth, at least regarding the current HADCO Board.
The current HADCO Board was never given any opportunity to consider the current applicants. I have confirmed that at least one HADCO Commission member was never informed that the Douglas County Commissioners had contacted HADCO regarding their input. I would hazard to guess that neither were any of the other three.
It is my understanding that communication between DC Commission staff and HADCO staff led the Douglas County Commissioners to believe that the current HADCO Commission had recommended Ron Weir fill the vacant seat.
To be clear, not only did the current board of HADCO not consider the current pool of applicants to fill Mr. Oberholzer’s seat, no one on the current HADCO Commission had anything to do with the appointment process or making any recommendations in the prior selection process in April. So not one person on the HADCO Board made any recommendation regarding this appointment at any time, nor were they involved in the recommendation process now or in April.
Further, the recommendation of Mr. Weir in April came from only two former HADCO Commissioners, Sharon Blodgett and Herm Oberholzer. During the process last time, only three HADCO Commissioners participated in interviewing and making recommendations. Besides Blodgett and Oberholzer, former HADCO Commissioner Joy Mayorga participated. However, even she did not agree with the recommendations made by the other two. It is my understanding that she sent a letter to you at the time expressing that she did not concur with Blodgett & Oberholzer’s recommendation of Mr. Weir and why.
Although the issue that you appointed Mr. Weir even if he was not recommended or even considered by the current HADCO Board is a problem and should be a serious enough error that you reconsider his appointment to the HADCO Commission, the issue that may require you to do so is the fact that your actions rejected residents from even being considered for the position in direct violation of federal law. CEA encourages you to act immediately to correct this grievous error. Tomorrow’s DC commission meeting is not too soon.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Citizens Education & Advocacy
1464 E. Central Ave.
Sutherlin, OR 97479
Telephone: (541) 459-4077
Copy follow up CEA email to Douglas County Commissioners 10/7/09
October 7, 2009
Dear Douglas County Commissioners:
This is a follow up to an email I sent you September 15, 2009 regarding your most recent appointment to the HADCO Board of Commissioners. I was wondering if you are going to do something to address the fact that your body summarily rejected residents from consideration residents in direct violation of federal law thereby discriminating against them. I had some hope that I would have heard that you move to rescind Mr. Weir’s appointment in order to appropriately consider the three residents who applied by now, but since I have not heard that this has happened, I will assume it has not.
Although I understand that you might believe that you were not the cause of this happening because you relied upon your staff who communicated with HADCO staff regarding this, but I cannot totally accept this. From my perspective there is some inherent responsibility to understand the rules that govern who you can appoint to any body and the rules regarding this are readily available. Reliance upon HADCO staff given the history of this organization is questionable.
It is my understanding that because the last monthly meeting of the HADCO Board of Commissioners was cancelled, Mr. Weir has not yet been sworn into his position. This might make this the prime time for you to act. After all, you are the only ones who can.
Thank you for your assistance.
Citizens Education & Advocacy
Copy letter recommendation from HADCO Executive Director Dolly Newman to DC Commissioners
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