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Miller Quit Housing Authority Over Dispute With Commissioner

April 11th, 2014 · 8 Comments · Development and Zoning, News and Events

Jim Miller

Jim Miller

Jim Miller rejected the permanent position as executive director of the Bridgeport Housing Authority because Commissioner Shante Hanks “was advising him what contractors to hire and causing an issue on the hiring of Blacks and Hispanics versus Blacks and Hispanic employees,” according to the minutes of a February 6, 2014 special meeting of the Bridgeport Housing Authority.

The special meeting came on the heels of a report from the federal Office of Inspector General recommending “HUD’s Hartford Office of Public and Indian Housing require Authority officials to (1) repay more than $895,000 in ineligible costs and support or repay more than $790,000 in costs charged to the Authority’s Federal program.” The financial mismanagement outlined by the feds predated Miller’s time.

The board had hired Miller, who had a similar role in New Haven, to lead the authority as executive director, following the resignation of Nick Calace last year. Miller had informally accepted the permanent spot but abruptly resigned as detailed in the minutes. The BHA is dealing with some hot-button neighborhood issues including the demolition of Marina Village in the South End and the relocation of its residents.

The minutes to the special meeting February 6 provide insight into why Miller did not accept the the permanent position. Commissioners in attendance for the meeting were Dulce Nieves, Sultan Stack, Americo Santiago, James Brown and Shante Hanks who is director of constituent services for Congressman Jim Himes. From minutes of the meeting.

Due to rumors or misinformation, Commissioner Hanks addressed Mr. Miller and stated she heard he was leaving because she was advising him what contractors to hire and causing an issue on the hiring of Blacks and Hispanics versus Blacks and Hispanic employees. Mr. Miller answered in the affirmative.

Commissioner Hanks clarify that when she raised the question of Blacks versus Hispanics was that members of the community had questioned that there was a disparity between Section 8 vouchers being given to Hispanics over Blacks. She requested that report from him and the Section 8 director in order to have data to support her belief that the information was not true. The report reflected that there is a small percentage more of Hispanics and the reason why there are more Hispanics on the program.

Mr. Miller commented she asked specifically who was going to be hired in the Section 8 department and questioned what the ethnicity was. He stated that questioning information on personnel was illegal. Commissioner Hanks stated that she does not have a bias for Blacks or Hispanics.

Commissioner Hanks stated that the other issues she had addressed to Mr. Miller, which had nothing to do with race, was about an employee who was laid off. The employee called her because she wanted to know why she was suspended and when she was going to be rehired and that Mr. Miller agreed to contact the employee.

Mr. Miller stated he does not like the tone of Commissioner Hanks’ questioning and primarily in the manner the questions are asked. This is the reason why he has decided to leave. Commissioner Hanks stated her questioning tone will not change. Ultimately her questioning is overall about BHA, the residents and it is not about her unless she is calling about a constituent.

Full minutes to meeting here.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Tom White

    About 25 years ago, the then-Exec Director of the BHA, Clarence Craig, showed me the file of documents for the first public housing project in Bridgeport, Yellow Mill Village.

    He pointed to the mission statement which included the purpose of the housing, which read “to provide clean, affordable housing for the workers of Bridgeport.”

    Mr. Craig suggested much of the challenge of managing public housing was the changed resident base, with fewer employed people and more with income exclusively from entitlement programs.

    This experience led me to conclude public housing, including section 8 rental assistance, had become the housing component of a failed social welfare system.

    Fast-forward 25 years after millions of dollars in new construction, rebuilding, refurbishing, etc, etc, the demographics of Bridgeport increases in contrast to surrounding towns. Employment opportunities have decreased with the economic isolation of urban centers such as Bridgeport, yet federal and state programs continue to fund public housing and other ‘affordable housing’ programs.

    In Bridgeport we see the board of the BHA engaged, apparently, in the politics of influencing the spending of Federal funds.

    What a sad commentary it is when BHA commissioners see their role as referees in the distribution of Federal hand-outs to black and Hispanic residents and vendors.

    Even more disturbing is the connection of some BHA board members to Democratic party politics, given the influence on elections the voters in urban centers now have.

  • Ron Mackey

    Tom White, you said, “What a sad commentary it is when BHA commissioners see their role as referees in the distribution of Federal hand-outs to black and Hispanic residents and vendors.” You seem to take who gets those federal contracts very lightly. There are guidelines and procedures in hiring contractors that include race.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Tom is very aware of rules, guidelines and procedures that are governance considerations. He is also aware of how power is used to cause decisions to be made not in line with those rules, guidelines and procedures that hurt people.

    The BHA has had turmoil in the past ten years that saw turnover of Board and management. This has happened once again where an experienced housing administrator from New Haven was prepared to accept a permanent appointment but saw things that were not to his appetite. So New Haven gains.

    Perhaps you had to be there to understand Miller’s decision, but tone and line of questioning is important. Perhaps the BHA board will tell us what they are doing about the financial amounts under study by the Federal government. If there is a lapse, what is being done about it? Time will tell.

  • Ron Mackey

    Wait a minute, the board had hired Miller, who had a similar role in New Haven, to lead the authority as executive director, following the resignation of Nick Calace last year, but tone and line of questioning is important so he’s leaving?

  • John Marshall Lee

    You grabbed it. Ron. While he was here temporarily he was offered and considered BHA as a permanent position. The small section of the minutes provides only part of what went on at that meeting (or over recent months) but that is what he said.
    Of course he heard the questions as the article says, and some questions that wandered into personnel issues were out of bounds for him to answer, and other questions like a workplace question from a constituent Miller said he would handle.
    Perhaps a question asking whether the BHA under Miller’s executive direction was attending to the applicable rules and regulations (in general or specifically) could have been answered to the Commissioner’s satisfaction as well as the Executive Director’s. At least one party did not think so. What to do? Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    JML,
    You did get this much right:
    “The small section of the minutes provides only part of what went on at that meeting (or over recent months) but that is what he said.”
    And maybe you should have ended it there with Time will Tell.
    I do not know Mr. Miller and I know very little about Ms. Hanks. But to try to draw conclusions as to right and wrong based on this little snippet is wrong.
    When I was on the WPCA, the Fire Commission and the City Council, constituents were constantly calling things to my attention and more often than not they were right.
    I can offer the very plausible explanation Mr. Miller was an arrogant control freak and resented anyone questioning the way he does anything. But until Mr. Miller steps forward and speaks publicly about why he resigned and offers proof of what he might be implying is irresponsible, unethical or illegal interference by a board member, then this is all unsubstantiated rumors.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Bob,
    We should always look for more in order to understand a story but time and good content is so precious. However, going with what was provided, I commented.
    I am happy you raise the “specter of an arrogant control freak … (who) resented anyone questioning the way he does anything.” I think our current City administration is a well-developed example of the specter, actually.

    But specific to this story: my assumption is if Miller were that way while running things in New Haven, our Board would not have invited him here for even an interim position, much less offer and expect him to accept a permanent executive position. (And remember there is a matter of two financial problems with more than $1.5 Million being questioned by the Feds at the same time.) Perhaps my assumption is wrong, but if I have it right, New Haven has Miller, the BHA board still has Federal oversight unhappy over money usage, and Bridgeport has a BHA problem to sort out, right? Why does Miller need to step forward and say any more? He is history, isn’t he? Time will tell.

  • Bob Walsh

    JML,
    You can correct me if I am wrong but I thought it started out that Mr. Miller was on loan from New Haven. If so, then why was that? Could that be a sign of a potential problem?
    As to why does Mr. Miller owe us anything, you answered the question already. There is a federal audit that unveiled questionable practices. Does any of that have to do with ANY current board members? Does Mr Miller have input to share with the public rather than the mayor or the Feds? There just seems to be way too many unanswered questions out there on this issue.

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