Joliet mayor asks for housing board resignations
By bob okon firstname.lastname@example.org December 24, 2012 1:28PM
Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante | File photo
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:22AM
JOLIET — Mayor Thomas Giarrante has asked for resignations from all seven board members at the Housing Authority of Joliet.
Giarrante said Monday that he will not necessarily replace all the board members but wants to review their oversight of operations after HAJ was designated “troubled” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in October after a review of the agency.
“I don’t like what the results of the study were,” Giarrante said. “I’m asking for everybody’s resignation.”
The mayor asked for the resignations by letter last week. He said it will take “a couple of months” to review board activity before deciding what replacements to make.
HAJ members are appointed by the major of Joliet. The agency is funded by HUD and provides subsidized housing in Joliet for low-income residents.
Giarrante said he was particularly troubled by circumstances that led to the firing of former Chief Executive Officer Henry Morris and vacancies in the Fairview housing complex.
Morris was fired in June after being on a paid leave of absence for nearly two months as the board investigated allegations made by two female employees.
“The board wasn’t aware of what he (Morris) was doing,” Giarrante said. “They didn’t keep tabs on him.”
The mayor said he also was concerned about vacant units in Fairview, a 168-unit housing complex on the East Side. The vacancies contributed to the “troubled” agency rating from HUD, Giarrante said.
Giarrante would not comment on who he would be inclined to replace on the board.
The board has a few longtime members, including Chairwoman Susie Barber who also is a member of the Joliet City Council.
Barber said she has not talked to Giarrante about his call for board resignations.
“I didn’t ask any questions,” she said.
Barber said she did not know if Giarrante wanted to replace her, but said, “I think there are going to be some new people on the board.”
She, however, defended the board’s actions on the Morris and Fairview matters.
Barber said Morris was dismissed after a board inquiry into the situation.
As for Fairview, she said, “Some units are not livable. Fairview needs to be torn down.”
The HUD team that reviewed HAJ operations this year also calls for Fairview to be demolished because of the physical condition of the complex.
HAJ had planned to demolish Fairview and replace it with a mixed-income subdivision. The same action was taken when Poole Gardens was demolished and replaced with Liberty Meadow Estates. But the Fairview plan was put on hold in 2010 when HUD questioned the project in light of the city of Joliet’s own actions to condemn the privately owned Evergreen Terrace apartment complex. HUD, which also subsidizes rents at Evergreen Terrace, is a defendant in the condemnation lawsuit now going through trial in federal court.
HUD two years ago questioned whether both the city and HAJ were trying to reduce low-income housing opportunities for black residents in Joliet.
In its recent review of HAJ operations, HUD also noted that the Joliet agency had been late with a audit report and other financial statements to the federal government. The city has assigned someone from its financial department to review HAJ finances.