Harland K. Heumann, executive director of Alexandria's Redevelopment and Housing Authority, has been fired by the city manager, apparently as the result of a contest for control of the agency, which operate's 1,000 public housing units on a yearly budget of $2.8 million.
The action, officially termed a "conclusion of services," was announced yesterday by City Manager Douglas Harman. Heumann, the city's fourth highest paid employe, will leave his $45,000-a-year job March 1.
One city official said Harman had gotten "angry and fed up" with his inability to get information from the agency.
Heumann, 59, who has spent his entire 28-year city government career with the agency, did not return a reporter's calls yesterday.
A City Council member said that contributing to Heumann's dismissal were apparent recent failures by the agency to make repairs and improvements at the city's public housing projects, to put in a successful rat control program and to work with other agencies in developing a recreation program.
"We kept asking and asking them what was going on, and we kept getting one excuse after another," said the council member, who refused to be identified.
Heumann headed the agency from 1966 to 1977. Until 1977 it was an independent body with no obligation to account to the council for its actions or expenditures. Two years ago relations between the council and the agency became so strained that a government reorganization made the city manager the director of housing and redevelopment. rHeumann was made executive director and his authority was reduced to running the agency on a day-to-day basis.
In past years, Heumann angered officials by accumulating more than $800,000 in city funds in a city-controlled bank account rather than spending the money on housing improvements. Harman said yesterday. Heumann told city officials at the time that such a surplus made Alexandria look good to federal agencies considering giving the city funds, the manager said.
Additionally, Harman said that in the mid-1970s Heumann "personally and deliberately failed to inform the City Council" that the federal government would withhold federal funds for a new high rise for the elderly if the city tore down existing but deteriorating public housing.
Although the federal funds were later approved, Harman said the city government went through "a period of agony" trying to get the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to change its mind.
Last year Heumann called the 11-story structure for the elderly, the only one of its kind in the city, "the dream" he had been trying to accomplish since taking over the agency.
The redevelopment and housing authority's critics at City Hall referred to the agency as "the plantation" because of Heumann's allegedly autocratic rule. t
According to one city official, Heumann "refused to hire low-level employees on a salary basis. Instead, he paid them on an houry rate, which meant they didn't get health benefits or paid holidays."
The City Council member said the agency "started out . . . mainly . . . as the landlord of public housing, concerned only with custodial functions. But in recent years new national housing laws have given it authority for improving neighborhoods and individual houses, and the agency just hasn't responded."
The agency has 86 employes. Heumann's replacement has not been named.