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Housing Authority to answer accusations

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Three members of the Facilities Holding Company (FHC) -- a subsidiary of the Housing Authority of Clayton County (HACC) -- will face accusations of misconduct during the Feb. 19 meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

During that meeting, the BOC will decide whether to remove FHC and HACC chairman, Paul Jones, as well as FHC board members, Tim Tittle and Courtney Woods-Edwards, from their positions.

The BOC has accused the three members of using the FHC, a limited liability company (LLC), to receive $500 a month in compensation -- an action which the county says goes against state law and violates the operating agreement of the FHC.

"The purpose of this hearing ... is to let them speak as to why they should not be removed," said county attorney Michael Smith, during a public hearing on Tuesday night. "Based upon my reading of the law and my understanding ... they should not be receiving compensation."

The FHC -- a five-member board consisting of the HACC chairman, two HACC members, and two BOC appointees -- was created on June 25, 2004 to manage Premier Garden Apartments.

The 24-building, 423-unit apartment complex located at 639 Garden Walk Blvd., was rehabilitated by the HACC through government bonds secured by the county. The rent generated from the complex serves as a source of income for the HACC.

On March 15, 2006, the FHC voted to pay its board members $500 per meeting, with a cap of $500 per month. According to Article V., section five of the FHC operating agreement, however, "mangers shall not receive compensation for their services," and can only be reimbursed for fixed expenses.

In addition, the FHC bylaws were not amended to reflect a change in compensation policies. Steve Fincher, legal advisor to the FHC and HACC since 2000, said not amending the bylaws was "an oversight," but did not believe the FHC members were guilty of misconduct.

"I don't think it rises to that level," said Fincher. "The payments that were being made to the FHC members were not secret to the members of the HACC. They weren't being paid for their service on the housing board; they were being paid for their service for an entirely different entity."

Between now and Feb. 19, the BOC will sift through the minutes of FHC meetings to determine whether its members are guilty of intentional wrongdoing. Regardless of motive, Commissioner Wole Ralph believes that action should be taken.

"There is no question that the FHC members were paid," said Ralph. "There is no question that it was in violation of state law. It went against their bylaws and their operating agreement.

"It would be inconceivable that the citizens of Clayton County would accept the Board of Commissioners creating an LLC for us to be paid in excess to what we are being paid on the board," Ralph said.