Hello - Goodbye

By Tom Jennemann
Hoboken Reporter

The instability of the leadership at the Hoboken Housing Authority continued last week after Interim Executive Director Robert Graham resigned after only three days on the job.

This is a major mess for the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners. The HHA oversees the city's 1,383 federally subsidized housing units, including three senior buildings. Most of the projects are in the southwest part of town.

A little background

About 18 months ago, West New York Housing Authority Executive Director Robert DiVincent was "borrowed" from that agency to bring Hoboken's troubled housing authority out of a major financial and management crisis.

DiVincent created a corrective action plan that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved. But in a surprising move to many tenants, in July, the majority members of the board voted to terminate DiVincent's contract, effective Aug. 14.

The two Housing Authority residents on the board questioned the timing of the move, and said that it was an effort by the administration of Mayor David Roberts to put in a political ally. HUD sent the HHA a warning letter saying that they better make sure to hire a competent director.

But the majority members said that the termination was necessary because DiVincent was spread too thin, since he worked at both the West New York and Weehawken Housing authorities in addition to the one in Hoboken. Often, DiVincent would only be in Hoboken one or two days per week. He had an assistant doing the day-to-day work.

At the meeting where Graham was hired two weeks ago, Commissioner Christopher Campos, who is also on the City Council, said that the HHA needs someone who is full time, and who only devotes his or her time to Hoboken.

Strange trade

Their solution was to replace one interim director with another, in the form of Graham. At an Aug. 11 meeting, the board voted 4-2 to hire Graham, who has a long and distinguished resume working at various housing authorities. HUD approved the hiring.

But Graham planned only to work part-time. According to an inside source at the HHA, Graham is still working part-time at a housing authority in Connecticut, which would mean that he could only work in Hoboken Thursday, Friday, and a half day Saturday.

Commissioner Perry Belfiore said Thursday afternoon that he didn't find this out until Tuesday morning.

"I was shocked when I learned that he couldn't work full time," said Belfiore.

On Wednesday afternoon, Graham told HUD that he would not be taking the contract at the HHA.

A spokesperson for HUD confirmed last week that Graham had just "declined the contract" to run Hoboken on an interim basis.

Compounding matters is the fact that Colin Vice, who was the deputy executive director to DiVincent, was let goes on Monday.

That means that the Hoboken Housing Authority is operating without an executive director, or any paid executive leadership, which is particularly disconcerting because the HHA is already is rated as a "troubled authority" by HUD.

Told you so

For the minority Commissioners Jean Rodriguez and Lynda Walker, both of whom are Housing Authority residents, the follies of the past week bolster their argument that DiVincent's termination was politically motivated. Walker said that the majority members should have known whether Graham planned to be full time or not.

Walker said Thursday, "Now we have nobody at the helm, nobody to run the Housing Authority." So now what?

According to Belfiore, the HHA will go "with hat in hand" to qualified directors who could fill in on an interim basis. He didn't rule out approaching DiVincent for a second chance. DiVincent was applauded by HHA residents at the meeting two weeks ago, and said he harbored no ill will toward the commissioners.

Belfiore also said that the board should expedite the Request for Proposal (RFP) process and try to find a permanent director.

"What we are looking for is some stability," he said.

A spokesman for HUD said that they will not step in at this point, and that the hiring of staff is decision is made by the board of commissioners of HHA.

Attempts to reach Graham were unsuccessful by press time.

Comments (0)

New comments are currently disabled.

Email to Friend

Fill in the form below to send this article to a friend:

Email to Friend
* Your Name:
* Your Email:
* Friend's Name:
* Friend's Email:
* Security Image:
Security Image Generate new
Copy the numbers and letters from the security image
* Message: