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.