In the continuing battle between the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, one housing authority member has resigned and the Council has set up a new procedure that tightens Council control over the housing authority's budget.
Last week, when the City Council adopted its operating budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, it cut the housing authority budget by $4,000 - without first notifying the authority staff - and set up a new procedure requiring the housing authority to com to the Council every quarter with a detailed list of its expenditures in order to get its money for the following quarter.
The housing authority, a political entity set up in 1939 by the state code, is independent of the city but as the city's public housing and redevelopment agent and receives some city funds. Alexandria has 1,034 public housing units.
Housing authority commissioner Cullen B. Jones Jr., a member of the authority board for 16 years, resigned last week, saying it had become apparent to him that his views and those of city manager Douglas Harman and a majority of the Council are "antagonistic."
The budget actions were recommended by City Council Robert Calhoun, who noted that questions have been raised about the way the housing authority spends its money.
Harman recently sent a city auditor to examine the discovered there were two vacancies in housing authority positions he thought.
Calhoun said after the budget session, "I'm sure they (the authority) will be unhappy. My answer to that is, it could be worse."
Some Council members and the city manager are unhappy with the housing authority commissioners' response to a resolution the Council adopted in December making Harman the executive director of the housing authority and the authority staff part of the city staff. Current housing authority executive director Harland K. Heumann would become Harman's executive director.
City manager harman had told the Council that the separation of the housing authority and the city staff serves no useful purpose. He noted the city has a financial stake in urban renewal, and should have some control over the funds.
At its March meeting, the housing authority rejected the idea of consolidating the two staffs, but appeared willing the two staffs, but appeared willing to accept Harman as the executive director for redevelopment. The board members held off a final vote until April meeting.
At that April meeting, the housing authority made harland K. Heumann executive director for housing. Harman was made executive director for redevelopment and conservation projects, with Heumann as his deputy.
Last week, Harman turned thumbs down on the housing board's plan. In a memo to the Council and housing board, Harman said the proposal "would have the ironic effect of formally adopting the problem as the solution." He called the plan administratively unworkable and unacceptable.
The city manager wrote that the plan is "unresponsive" to the Council's original request, and "implies a distrust of the City Council and the Council's chief administrative officer."
Housing Authority Board Chairman A. Melvin Miller said in response to Harman's memo, "His saying that he have to go along with him is ridioulous" Miller said that as far as he's concerned, the board commissioners have made their decision. And, since harman turned down their proposal, "it means nothing has changed," Miller added.
He is satisfied with the authority staff, Miller said. He says the whole issue is an "attempt by Harman to assume more power without the responsibility."
An assistant city attorney noted that the Council cannot force the housing authority to adopt its recommendations. However, the Council appoints housing authority commissioners, and therefore can control the board through appointments.
The Council also can seek a charter change which would reconstitute the housing authority by making the Council members the housing authority commissioners, the assistant city attorney said.
When housing authority commissioner Jones resigned, he said the city manager's plan is to "be coronated Czar of Housing and Redevelopment in Alexandria."
"To say that 'No' is not a responsive answer to a proposal is to say that there can be no responsive answer but 'Yes.' Such a proposition is untenable," Jones wrote about Harman's rejection of the housing authority plan.
Jones said one of the reasons he resigned is the increasing paperwork that is now required because the city manager has "intimidated us with questions and studies and demands for information," in Jones' words.
Jones, a lawyer, said, "It is all I can do just to read the stuff. If I had to reply to every memo and study, my secretary couldn't get anything else done."