Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Butler commissioner calls for housing official ouster

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Butler County Commissioner Chuck Furmon called Tuesday for the removal of Herman Hill from the Butler Metropolitan Housing Authority Board after hearing Hill allegedly threaten an agency employee's job following a public meeting this week.

Furmon said Robin Bobst, resident relations coordinator, walked up to speak with him after Monday night's special meeting the commissioners called to address housing authority problems cited in a recent federal review.

He said that Hill, standing nearby, pointed his finger at Bobst and said, "You may not have a job, either."

"He said it twice," Furmon said. "I actually had to step in between Herman and this woman's husband at one point. Herman was sticking his finger in the guy's face and making all kinds of comments. It got a little ugly."

Hill's comments occurred after a meeting in which the commissioners had assured housing authority employees that they didn't have to fear for their jobs if they made comments criticizing the agency.

Hill had been appointed by a 2-1 vote last May as the commissioners' representative on the housing authority board.

Furmon said he had voted against the appointment.

"He has no business being a board member and acting like that toward an employee," Furmon said. "You can't tolerate something like that."

Hill could not be reached for comment.

Commissioner Mike Fox said he also heard Hill's remarks. He said Hill's comments were inappropriate, but he said that Bobst provoked him by thanking Furmon for voting against placing Hill on the housing authority board last year.

Bobst admitted making that remark to Furmon, but said she didn't do it to provoke Hill.

"I didn't say it for Herman to hear, although I didn't care if he did," she said.

Fox and Commissioner Courtney Combs said Hill has been a valuable asset to the board because he has raised questions about the housing authority's operations that other board members wouldn't raise.

"I'm dismayed that Chuck would make an issue of this," Fox said. "I'm far more offended by the other four board members who put the agency at the brink of disaster than I am by something Herman said in the heat of the moment.''

Last July, Butler County Administrator Derek Conklin wrote a letter to Hill reprimanding him over complaints commissioners had received on Hill's treatment of some housing authority employees.

Bobst, who is white, said that soon after Hill, who is African-American, was appointed to the board, he came to her office and had a tirade that included several racial remarks.

During Monday's meeting, Hill offered to resign in order to encourage the other four board members to resign.


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