The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners on Monday, Feb.13 took another step in the overhaul of its troubled nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises, by agreeing to work within the merit system to begin to merge the two entities.
The first step for commissioners was a unanimous vote to bring MDE V.P. of Asset Management and Compliance Matthew McClammey and two executives that report to him under the MHB umbrella through the Mobile County Personnel Board.
It was the most logical first step, Commissioner Reid Cummings said, because MDE has no assets.
“The only assets they have they get from the housing board,” he said.
The board discussed the ease at which they might be able to fold other positions in under MHB and the merit system. Attorney Raymond Bell said 60 percent of the merge would be “easy.”
“The others would require asking the personnel board to create a position,” he said. “Another issue could be with the pay range … ”
Commissioners discussed holding a work session with the personnel board to help them create needed positions that may not exist in other jurisdictions where the merit system is in place.
Before MDE became the behemoth it is now with designs on development, it began as a small nonprofit created to secure grant funding for the Clinton L. Johnson Center. The center would have a daycare, job training and other assets to help residents, Bell said.
When those grants dried up, others were used to pay for the entity’s employees. It was also used, ironically, to work around the merit system, Bell said in a previous meeting. MDE still provides certain resident services, but expanded greatly over the years to oversee everything from asset management to aspects of maintenance.
The social service component is what commissioners would like to see remain of MDE when it’s all said and done. In fact, Cummings believes MDE could simply specialize in grants going forward.
The two entities are supposed to be separate, according to the U.S. Department of Urban Development, but they share office space, most of a budget and several employees, as evidenced by “confusion” organizational charts.
The board was working off three separate organization charts — one with just MDE employees, one with just MHB employees and one with both sets — on more than one occasion, Chairman Kimberly Pettway showed frustration in dealing with them. She found numerous mistakes.
“Y’all are killing me with these inaccurate organizational charts,” she said.
Interim Executive Director Lori Shackelford noted that many employees, because grant funding went away, had already been transferred to other areas of either MDE or MHB.
The board’s goal is not to cut employees or positions, Pettway said, but she did question if simply transferring positions from one entity to another would result in the most qualified people in those positions.
“It’s not my desire to axe people from organizational charts,” she said. “My goal is being used in their best capacity. We want to make decisions in the best interest of the housing board and put the interests of our clients first.”