CEA Asks County to Take Over HADCO!

1/27/10

Today I appeared at the Douglas County Commission meeting regarding HADCO and offered a solution to the on-going problems.  Below is the written presentation.  A bit more was actually said.  The whole thing can be listened to at the Douglas County Commission website. 

Dear Douglas County Commissioners,

I am here today on behalf of Citizens Education & Advocacy (CEA) regarding the Housing Authority of Douglas County (HADCO).  CEA knows that you are in the process of reviewing  applications for two of the three vacant seats on the HADCO Board of Commissioners.  However I am not here today to ask you to appoint a particular person or slate of people to the HADCO Board nor am I here to give CEA’s two-cents about having an open process with public interviews of the candidates.   I am here to offer a different solution to the problem of establishing a governing board that is able to exercise appropriately oversight of our local public housing authority. 

I am here to ask you to take on the obligation to ensure that this government funded program has appropriate oversight by a body that is accountable to the taxpayer in our community.   Given all that has transpired, the only way that this may be able to happen is for you to pass a resolution to transfer the housing authority to the DC Commissioners and declaring that you will exercise the powers of the housing authority under ORS 455.  This will eliminate HADCO as we know it along with its current two-member board while continuing to provide its vital service in our community.  

This may be the best way to get a fresh start for our public housing agency.  It certainly is the best way to ensure that our public housing authority’s governing body is accountable to the people in our community.  As elected officials, you give us the most accountability possible, and much more than under the current system.  

It is clear that Oregon law allows the Douglas County Commission to act as the public housing authority. Oregon Revised Statute 456.095 provides the language that allows the DC Commissioners to serve as the governing body.  ORS 456.233 allows you to take that responsibility back from HADCO.   Case law interpreting ORS 456.233 confirms that you have the legal authority to do so now.  (Housing Authority of Lane County v. Board of Commissioners, 35 Or App 785, 582 P2d 844 (1978), Sup Ct review denied).

Although this might seem an extreme measure, it is not without justification or precedent.  Attached to this is a copy of the pertinent sections of the Oregon Revised Statute as well as an excerpt from the case cited above so there is no question about whether you can do it.  The question is will you? 

Thank you for considering our request. 

Betsy Cunningham

Citizens Education & Advocacy

1464 E. Central Ave.

Sutherlin, OR 97479

Telephone: (541) 459-4077

Email: cea2day@yahoo.com

Oregon Revised Statute

“456.095 Appointment and qualification of commissioners of housing authorities. (1) When the governing body of a city or county adopts a resolution pursuant to ORS 456.085, the governing body may then elect to have the powers of a housing authority under this chapter, ORS chapter 455 and ORS 446.515 to 446.547 exercised in any of the following ways:

(a) Appointing by resolution, a commission composed of five, seven or nine persons.

(b) Declaring, by resolution, that the governing body, itself, shall exercise the powers of a housing authority under this chapter, ORS chapter 455 and ORS 446.515 to 446.547. A governing body that exercises the powers of a housing authority may appoint at least one but not more than two additional commissioners for the housing authority. An appointed commissioner has the same authority as other housing authority commissioners, but may not exercise any powers of the governing body. At least one appointed commissioner must be a resident who receives direct assistance from the housing authority. The second appointed commissioner, if any, at a minimum must live within the jurisdiction of the authority. An appointed commissioner serves a term of office equal in length to the terms of office for governing body members, but not more than four years. An appointed commissioner may be removed only for cause as described in ORS 456.110 or if the commissioner ceases to meet the requirements for being an appointed commissioner. In the event that a housing authority commission consisting of the governing body of a city and one or more appointed commissioners has an even number of members, the mayor shall be included as a member of the commission for the housing authority. An act of a governing body exercising the powers of a housing authority is an act of the commission for the housing authority only and not of the governing body.”

“456.233 Transfer of housing authority from governing body to separate board. If, pursuant to this chapter, ORS chapter 455 and ORS 446.515 to 446.547, the governing body in a city or a county has declared, by resolution, that the governing body itself shall exercise the powers of a housing authority under this chapter, ORS chapter 455 and ORS 446.515 to 446.547, the governing body may thereafter, by resolution, elect to transfer such powers and the authority to act as the housing authority to any other body which may be designated by this chapter, ORS chapter 455 and ORS 446.515 to 446.547 to exercise such powers. The governing body of the city or county may, by resolution, transfer the powers and authority to act as the housing authority to itself. All duties and obligations of the governing body as the housing authority of the municipality shall thereafter be assumed and performed by the body to which such powers and authority are transferred. [1969 c.630 §1; 1975 c.322 §2; 1979 c.621 §17]”

ORS Annotations

“456.233  NOTES OF DECISIONS

                “Return” of powers pursuant to this section reflects fact that assignment of municipal powers to independent body is delegation of powers, and thus county board of commissioners was authorized to reassign housing authority functions to itself regardless of whether those functions were initially retained by county board or were initially delegated to separately created county board. Housing Authority of Lane County v. Board of Commissioners, 35 Or App 785, 582 P2d 844 (1978), Sup Ct review denied”

In the above case, the court stated:

“The authority of a municipal governing body to reassume these powers is regulated by the second sentence of each statute:

“* * * The governing body of the city may, by resolution, return the powers and authority to act as the housing authority [or urban renewal agency] to itself. * * *”

Plaintiff contends that this sentence is operative only if the events of the first sentences have occurred, i.e., that the commission has initially elected to retain the power and thereafter delegated it. The logic of  [**847]  that construction rests upon the word “return” in the second sentences from which plaintiff perceives the implication [***8]  that power cannot be returned to the commission unless it was initially there. Thus, under plaintiff’s approach, if Lane County’s Board of Commissioners had originally elected to perform the housing authority and urban renewal functions in itself, and subsequently created a separate body to assume those functions, it could thereafter “return” the transferred functions to itself. However, because Lane County initially created a separate housing authority board and delegated the powers to it, plaintiff argues it may never reallocate either of the functions.

Although plaintiff’s construction has some logical force, a contrary construction is more reasonable both in terms of the composition of the statutes and the legislative purpose they appear designed to advance.

Compositionally, the sentences of the two statutes read as if they are meant to cover alternative situations  [*791]  rather than serial events. The use of the word “return” more likely reflects the fact that an assignment of municipal powers to an independent body is a delegation of powers which may be returned to the delegating body in which they initially resided.

Such a construction is more consistent with the [***9]  apparent legislative purpose. The basic thrust of the statutes is to promote rather than to inhibit organizational flexibility. We cannot assume, as plaintiff’s construction would require, that the legislature intended that once a municipal governing body has delegated these powers, the delegatee agency should be permanently insulated from direct political responsibility and forever immune to changes in prevailing political philosophy.

Accordingly, we construe both ORS 456.233 and 457.145 as authorizing a governing body to reassign housing and urban renewal functions regardless of whether those functions were initially retained by the governing body. “

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