Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's difficult at this point to know exactly what is happening with the local organization that provides low income housing in Clatsop County as the County Commission sorts through various issues.  The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners recently dismissed the Clatsop County Housing Authority Board and took those powers onto themselves after it was found that CCHA had failed to properly make public notice of meetings and had made some decisions in sub-committee meetings not noticed as public. CCHA manages several low-income housing facilities around Clatsop County, including Owens-Adair in Astoria, Tillikum and Wapiti in Warrenton, and Clatsop Shores in Seaside, and makes housing grants available to a number of local social service organizations.  

 

Thursday afternoon the new CCHA board members voted to place Executive Director Kathy Lucas and Operations Director Sheila Heino on paid administrative leave for an undetermined period of time which means neither will be involved in day to day operations.  To make up for that lack of staffing the commissioners voted to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority to take over the operations of CCHA for a six month period and then on a month-by-month basis after that time.  NOHA is a regional housing authority covering Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties. It manages its own affordable housing properties totalling 225 units as well as administers federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing assistance vouchers for 1,086 clients. NOHA will manage CCHA-owned housing facilities and projects, monitor financial activities and supervise CCHA staff.

NOHA Executive Director Todd Johnston said the agreement will result in no changes in service to CCHA clients. "Our role is to ensure the residents continue to receive the services they do,"

Commissioner Scott Lee is the new Chair of CCHA and he told KAST news that certified letters were sent to both Lucas and Heino informing them that the board planned an executive session to discuss the specific reasons they might be placed on paid administrative leave but he said that confirmation that the letters were received only came back from one of the two individuals so it was not clear that both had received the notice.  The Executive session was not held and the board went directly to the vote to place Lucas and Heino on administrative leave.  Commissioner Birkby pointed out to the press that this doesn't mean CCHA is "getting rid" of the two administrators at this point.

It was clear during the meeting that the new CCHA board lacks several pieces of key information regarding projects in process, one of which involves a deal backed by the Bank of The Pacific to purchase a property for housing on Bond street in Astoria. The board voted to approve a change in the closing date for that property until January 14th after finding out that the seller was already in the process of closing on another property where the sale proceeds from the Bond street sale were part of that deal.  Another project of concern is called the 'HYAK" project for which the CCHA qualified for a grant from the Oregon Housing and Community Services agency.  It wasn't clear if a requested extension of the grant period was made or if the agency granted that extension. Johnston said this is a matter that NOHA will investigate.  

Another complication comes with a bill for legal services. The old CCHA board had retained an attorney to represent them in their final weeks.  The new board got the bill for some $38,000 in fees and it was mentioned that this was apparently on top of some $20,000 the old board had already spent on legal representation.  As a result of the discussion regarding the bill the IGA with NOHA will be altered to include using that organization's lawyers to find out why those fees are being charged.

The CCHA board will meet next immediately following the regular Clatsop County Commission meeting on January 9th.

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