Tuesday, February 11, 2003

HUD to monitor Butler Co. housing agency

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will monitor the embattled Butler County Metropolitan Housing Authority closely during the next year to help it meet federal standards.

HUD's division dealing with troubled agencies will require monthly reports from the Butler County Housing Authority and will provide constant guidance, Jim Cunningham, director of HUD's Cincinnati office, said Monday.

"This is a serious issue with HUD," he told Butler County commissioners in a special meeting in Hamilton.

Commissioners held the meeting after a recent review by HUD's Troubled Agency Recovery Center. The review criticized the agency's finances, reporting and tracking, and questioned the qualifications of Housing Authority officials.

The Housing Authority provides subsidized housing for low-income people. The city of Hamilton appoints two Housing Authority board members; and commissioners, Common Pleas Court and Probate Court each appoint one.

Commissioners worry that if the Housing Authority's problems persist, HUD will take over the agency.

Representatives of the appointing agencies for the Housing Authority board attended the meeting. But Commissioner Mike Fox was angry that only two of five Housing Authority board members - Herman Hill and Robert Gerhardt - showed up.

"That those folks aren't here tonight makes my blood boil," he said.

Several Housing Authority employees and former employees criticized the board and agency officials. Some said the agency is hampered by bad management practices and poor leadership.

Barbara Brown, a Section 8 coordinator, told commissioners agency employees were sent a memo by Joan Tumblison, a Housing Authority lawyer, threatening to discipline any employee who made derogatory comments about the agency.

Tumblison said it was not her intention to threaten employees into silence, but to address a certain situation.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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