SRHA Board vote may not be legal
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 25, 2002
The lack of a public vote to give Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority Executive Director Clarissa E. McAdoo a raise may have violated state code according to Alexander Wellford, a Richmond attorney who specializes in FOIA law.
He said the SRHA board &uot;should have acted in open session on the raise. They can discuss the raise and come to an agreement in closed session, but it’s not legal until they vote on it publicly.&uot;
SRHA Board members reached a &uot;consensus&uot; during a closed session Tuesday night, explained Vice Chairman Bill Carey, to boost McAdoo’s $79,844 salary by 4.5 percent.
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The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires all action by public bodies to be disclosed publicly during the meeting; however, if funding was already appropriated in the housing authority’s budget for the raise, commissioners may have a loophole, legal experts say. Customarily, boards and commissions granting raises to its appointees take a public vote.
When questioned about the closed-door tactic, SRHA Board Chairman Mary V. Richardson replied, &uot;That’s the way we’ve always done it.&uot; She added that the practice has even been the norm throughout the tenure of is former attorney, Jeffrey Gardy. Richardson said funding for McAdoo’s raise was already allocated in its operating budget.
Newly-hired SRHA attorney Howard Martin, of Norfolk-based Crenshaw, Ware and Martin, was present throughout the meeting. In an interview on Wednesday, Martin said he would follow up to &uot;see if a vote needs to be taken.&uot; It was his understanding of the board’s tradition that it would discuss and decide the amount of the raise during the closed meeting and, &uot;It usually doesn’t act on it in open session,&uot; he added.
&uot;My assumption is that it would have been done in the past if it was necessary,&uot; said Martin. &uot;If it needed to be done and it wasn’t, it was an oversight. If the law requires it, it will be done.&uot;
In coming to an agreement regarding the raise, Carey told reporters Tuesday that, &uot;The commissioners all agree that we have made great strides as a housing authority. We are getting better….We are extremely pleased that McAdoo is a member of the SRHA team. She is a great coach and she is moving the SRHA on the path we want to take.&uot;
Board members have asked McAdoo to start providing a 3-5 minute presentation during the monthly board meetings &uot;to give information about things that energize her and staff, and things she’s working on,&uot; explained Carey.
Commissioners also want more information about staffing, and have asked McAdoo to evaluate the feasibility of hiring outside contractors to facilitate a quicker turnaround of its public housing units. The 4.5 percent raise is consistent with city employee raises, and it’s reflective of &uot;the job she’s doing and what she deserves,&uot; said Carey.
McAdoo, 47, came to the SRHA six years ago during the aftermath of lingering federal, state and local reprimands involving the mismanagement of funds intended to provide safe, decent and affordable housing for the city’s low-income residents.