FOREST PARK Housing Authority of Clayton County Executive Director Wade Starr asked the authority’s board this week to give $1,300 to a group run by his second cousin but pulled back after questions were raised about nepotism.
Starr said the authority had the opportunity to enroll 10 young girls from properties owned by the group in a summer program run by Ladies of Favor Inc. It would cost $130 per child, he told the authority’s Board of Commissioners.
He was forthcoming and admitted before he made his request that the group’s founder, Gabrielle Starr, was his cousin. He claimed he didn’t know her, however.
“I had to look at her website to see what she looked like,” Starr said.
Starr said he first tried to find an outside source to pay for the girls to join the program but decided to ask the authority board to support it when he realized he wouldn’t be able to find enough money to pay for all of them. The girls are part of the authority’s Student Housing Initiative Program, also known as SHIP.
His blood ties to Ladies of Favor’s founder made at least one new board member a little uneasy.
“There’s a view that we’re always doing things for our family and we’ve got to get rid of that stigma,” said new board member Michael Bryant.
Bryant later said he would have an easier time supporting the request “if her name was anything other than Starr.”
Another board member, Tonya Clarke, said she could understand where Bryant was coming from with his concerns, but she pointed out it would be difficult to enroll the children in the program without using the authority’s money.
“I don’t see how we can turn them down just because she’s related to Mr. Starr unless we can find another program to enroll these children in,” Clarke said.
Starr rescinded his request because of the debate.