SRHA cannot operate secretly

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 29, 2002

You have to wonder who answers to whom when considering the recent chain of events at the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. How many people, like SRHA Executive Director Clarissa E. McAdoo, have the guaranteed luxury of giving their boss an ultimatum and remaining on the payroll with accolades attached?

During last week’s meeting, SRHA Board Chairman Mary V. Richardson shared with board members that their executive director, in so many words, said she would quit if the commissioners didn’t back off and let her do her job.

Despite talks to the contrary, Richardson spoke for the board in stating that the commissioners are &uot;not dissatisfied&uot; with McAdoo, and she needs to be left alone to do her job. In the end, Richardson urged commissioners to keep their executive director &uot;a little happier.&uot;

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Vice Chairman Charles W. Cary and Commissioner Elizabeth Smith (via letter) chimed in unison that the board members, particularly Resident-at-large Commissioner Thelma Hinton, should stop running to the press with the gross affairs of the agency.

The sentiments expressed by the trio appears to be a smoke screen working toward disguising those issues that don’t stack up to glowing headlines – while spoonfeeding the media those stories reflecting favorably upon the SRHA. We know, it’s the public relations war.

While we don’t make everybody happy all the time (and we shouldn’t), the media’s role is to present all sides of the issue. And yes, when the paper receives a call from a commissioner that a public housing resident has been evicted within minutes of her family of five losing their home to a fire – we will come running. But take note that not only did the paper go great lengths to tell that side of the story, there were unsuccessful attempts to get the housing authority’s side.

Mcdoo should have made time to ensure that the administrative mechanics of the issue were presented to the newspaper. Until last week, the board sat quiet on the issue as Gwendolyn Bond and her four children bounced from house to house seeking shelter. Now, says Richardson, it’s the housing authority’s insurance policy that forbids the relocation of the family into another unit. Policy is policy, but make it public.

Just maybe SRHA management could have held off on dropping this bomb on the family the day that they lost everything to an accidental fire. There’s also the subliminal message attached that the family made its bed, and now they must lay in it. The problem is they have no bedroom or house, for that matter, to place the bed in.

If the commissioners’ desires conflict with policy then that means the board should do what it’s chartered to do: address policy, and if necessary, revamp it. McAdoo is supposed to execute that policy, not vice versa. And that appears to be, in part, what Cary, Richardson and Smith are saying, but McAdoo’s feet must be held to the fire.

It’s undisputed that McAdoo has had a tough road ahead taking on the housing authority in 1996 amid reprimands from the state’s housing arm and federal officials. The housing authority has come a long way, and it has greater strides to come. In concert ith Cary, the housing authority cannot move forward divided, but this should not mean speaking and acting only when it meets the approval of top dogs Cary and Richardson.

Hinton is not subordinate to Cary and Richardson, and come soon, her voting rights will make this point loud and clear. Hinton has not merited the criticism received, but instead should be commended for advocating for the betterment of the disadvantaged population served by the SRHA. When you get to the heart of the issue, a family is homeless.

Hinton presented the matter to the News-Herald, and our coverage has worked to the family’s benefit in gaining several donations of needed items throughout the community. Still no word on a house yet.

Again, just who is answering to whom? A better question perhaps is how each commissioner will answer themselves – only in the event their conscience is asking any questions.