CHA Rescinds Buy-Out Vote, Fires Holcomb

By Lynda Jones
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The saga of leadership at the Crockett Housing Authority continues. After rescinding an October vote to buy out Executive Director Bill Holcomb's contract , the Crockett Housing Authority Board of Commissioners CHA) voted 3-1 on Thursday, Jan. 21 to terminate Holcomb's employment. The action came after months of debate and numerous complaints against Holcomb by former employees.

Prior to April 1, 2015, Holcomb was an "at will" employee. That status changed when the CHA issued him a three-year contract, effective April 1, 2015. The board that approved that contract included then-Chairman Gary Dishon, Lenetha Carter, Pam Wells, Joni Clonts and Charles Arnold. Clonts and Arnold voted against the contract.

Arnold later resigned from the board and Crockett Mayor Robert Meadows appointed Bobby Bowlin to fill that position.

On Oct. 23, Bowlin moved to buy out Holcomb's contract and the board voted 3-2 to in favor of the motion. At that time, Bowlin said, there was not enough that happened since April 1 to terminate Holcomb. Clonts seconded the motion. Bowlin, Clonts and Wells voted in favor of the buy-out. Dishon and Carter were opposed.

The board met again on Oct. 29, and voted to pay out Holcomb's contract in full, with payment terms to be negotiated. The board demanded that Holcomb turn in his keys and remove his personal belongings from the office that night, and agreed to pay Holcomb his regular salary as if he was still employed until terms could be negotiated.

In November, Meadows appointed Crockett businessman Danny Ory to fill Carter's position on the board. She chose not to serve another term when hers ended Nov. 13.

The board also elected Bowlin as chairman. Dishon remains on the board as a tenant's representative. The board also opted to delay further actions pertaining to Holcomb until after the holidays.

The board legally cannot discuss details of an executive session.

When the commissioners reconvened after the approximately 90-minute session Thursday night, Bowlin asked for discussion from the commissioners regarding the employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of the executive director, or whether there is "Good Cause" to terminate his employment.

He first called on Dishon, who said, "I don't think we have enough to terminate Bill. That's my honest opinion."

Bowlin asked, "Would you like to elaborate on that?"

Dishon responded, "No, I'll just let it go at that."

Ory said, "I think there definitely was some areas ... that was definitely in my opinion was shady because the proper procedure was not in place."

Bowlin asked, "Which issue?"

Ory continued, "...airbrushing and concrete work..., and something about the Bathfitters...there's something definitely not right about the bathfitters."

Clonts commented, "I think it was poor management on Bathfitters. It was like nobody knew what was going on. And apparently it was just fine and should not have been fine. And Eric Burleson's -- his paperwork was very, I can't even explain it. It was very unorganized. And I'm sure if we pay somebody that amount of money, if they cannot give me any more details of what they did...."

With no other discussion, Bowlin called for a motion. Clonts said, "I'll make the motion to terminate the executive director so we can move forward from here on."

Ory said, "I'll second that."

Bowlin, Clonts and Ory then voted in favor of terminating Holcomb's employment and Dishon voted against the action. Wells was absent.

In other action, the board received a report from Office Manager Brittany Stapp who stated the 2016 flat rates for residents will go down in March. She said this is because the Fair Market Rent (FMR) is down in Houston County.

Maintenance Director Mark Stephenson reported on drainage issues that need to be addressed. He also reported he has given maintenance employees a manual of policies and procedures, and required each to sign that they received a copy.

Stephenson additionally reported giving the employees written job descriptions. The board unanimously approved the job descriptions as presented by Stephenson.

Bowlin added that he and Stephenson met with the maintenance department Wednesday, Jan. 20, and that they began the process of drug testing employees. Bowlin and Stephenson said further that an employee evaluation process will be forthcoming.

Bowlin and Stephenson also discussed issues regarding Bathfitters and a problem with a bathtub leaking that Bowlin witnessed Thursday in a resident's apartment. He said water ran from the tub down the hall of the apartment. He alleged the tub was not properly installed.

In discussing lawn care arrangements, Bowlin said non-exempt residents pay a $15 per month lawn care fee, which gives the CHA about $2,000 a month for lawn care. The issue of whether to go out for bids for lawn care or handle it "in house" will be on next month's agenda.

Also during the meeting, Carole Stringer presented a financial report of the CHA which the board unanimously approved.