The Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to convert positions from its troubled nonprofit, Mobile Development Enterprises, to MHB positions.
The move continues a series of changes the board has made to MDE since a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General report found that, among other things, a conflict of interest existed between the nonprofit and a contractor the board used starting in 2011.
MHB was already ordered to reimburse $1.2 million to HUD through its non-federalized capital funds as restitution for the conflict. HUD also made other recommendations related to the nonprofit.
The board must now work with the Mobile County Personnel Board to create a number of new positions. Commissioner Reid Cummings has previously said current MDE employees — including State Rep. Adline Clarke — would have to reapply for the positions.
Commissioner Norman Hill was initially hesitant to vote on the new organizational chart without elaboration.
“I am opposed to voting on the organizational chart today as it’s presented,” he said. “I believe we should have a full presentation matching each job with the budget so we can understand it. I’m not comfortable with looking at this sheet, going to the Personnel Board and saying, ‘This is our new staff.’”
Board Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway said she feels the board has done that already and has spent enough time on it.
“I’m pretty clear,” she said. “Since the first time I saw this, a lot has happened.”
Commissioner Joyce Freeman said she was prepared to vote on the item for the good of the employees affected by the changes.
“I feel we have kept the employees in limbo,” she said. “We’ve had the organizational chart for a while. It’s not fair to the employees. Those employees need to know. We need to move on with this.”
The changes are expected to save the board some $250,000, but Hill said he wasn’t sure if that was the amount of savings HUD was looking for from MHB.
“When we were looking at this I thought we were going to take a holistic look at the staff to see where we can make cuts,” he said. “I was looking at a bigger savings than this.”
Further, Hill said the board should take a look at titles, responsibilities and salaries to see if they make sense.
Pettway said she understood Hill’s concerns.
“I do believe we have some top-heavy positions we should rethink,” she said. “The process has taken way too long. … We should move on.”
The new positions have not been finalized, board attorney Raymond Bell said. Some positions will be revised from their current descriptions and some will be created. He said for the jobs that aren’t created, the Personnel Board will find something similar within the merit system and apply it to MHB.
Interim Executive Director Lori Shackelford did not provide a copy of the new organizational chart following the meeting on Wednesday, June 14, even though the board approved it in an open meeting. She said she wanted to have time to present the changes to affected employees.
Lagniappe obtained an email from Shackelford detailing the changes and new positions, in which she said MHB would absorb the MDE positions and all MDE positions would eventually be abolished.
“At this time we are not certain how long it will take to work through this process,” Shackelford wrote. “There will be some newly created MHB positions to augment current staffing.”
The message provided a breakdown of the new positions and the divisions to which they’re being added.
In finance, the MHB is adding a purchasing agent, accounting supervisor and an office assistant. In the human resources department, MHB is adding two office assistants. In the management information services, the board is adding a network engineer and computer support coordinator. In development, MHB is acquiring a capital fund and development director.
Some new positions are being created in MHB’s executive office, including a deputy executive director and an office assistant. The Housing Choice Voucher program will see the addition of a director, an assistant director, two resident services advisors, three office assistants and a housing technician.
Resident services is adding a number of former MDE positions as well. There will be a director of client/community relations, an office assistant, a resident services coordinator, a resident services supervisor and six resident services advisors. In the low-income public housing department there will be a director of asset management, an operations and compliance manager, a housing manager and a housing technician.
In other business, the board received a presentation from Stan Waterhouse, representing the Hunt Companies, on the progress of the demolition and revitalization of Roger Williams Homes.
Waterhouse said the company has received a $1.7 million bid for the demolition from Gulf Coast Contracting. The demolition will be a five-month process.
Waterhouse also presented a conceptual site plan for the transformation project. He estimated a new mixed-use, mixed-income development could consist of 532 units. As many as 124 of those could be market rate with 342 units being a one-for-one replacement of the public housing units that existed at the site previously. Any remaining units would be what are referred to as “affordable,” Waterhouse said. The number of units would depend largely on the type of financing and the amount of tax credits received for the project.
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