Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Housing Authority Board rejects fired director's appeal

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 1:41 PM

NO APPEAL: Commissioners voted 4-1 against rehearing decision to oust director.
  • Brian Chilson
  • NO APPEAL: Commissioners voted 4-1 against rehearing decision to oust director.

The board of the Little Rock Housing Authority, which oversees the Metropolitan Housing Alliance, voted after a brief meeting today not to hear an appeal from Shelly Ehenger of the board's unanimous decision yesterday to fire her as agency director over management shortcomings.

Ehenger was suspended after she suspended Kim Travis, the human resources director, an action that led to multiple allegations of poor management against Ehenger. These were not the first lodged against Ehenger. She's survived a series of complaints and reviews of past actions over the years, including a major report by a former commissioner who concluded several years ago that she should be dismissed.

Ehenger was not present at the meeting today though she had said yesterday she wanted to appeal. Four of the five board members — all except Carolyn Polite of College Station, who represents residents on the commission — voted to reject an appeal. The board's attorney, Edward Armstrong-Rial, said Ehenger had been given several opportunities during the course of a review by an outside lawyer, Arkie Byrd, to respond to complaints, but had not. A source tells me Ehenger has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which could be a precursor to a lawsuit. Any lawsuit would open the door not only to examination of current allegations, but also past allegations about her management.

Arkie Byrd's report will be open to the public, Armstrong-Rial told me this morning. It had been withheld pending a final resolution of her request for an appeal. However, he said he first had to notify all other employees named in the report about the coming release. They are entitled to notice under the law and an opportunity to object to release, though Armstrong-Rial said it would be the agency's view that the information is public. If employees can't be reached by phone, they must be notified by mail, so it may be several days before the report is open.

The Board also firmed up earlier action related to Kim Travis. Her suspension ends Friday and she can return to work Monday.

The agency supervises federally funded housing programs, both rental subsidies and agency-owned units. I still don't have the precise figure, but Ehenger was paid about $120,000, with fringes worth another $20,000.

NOTE CORRECTION: I misquoted the commission's lawyer in saying Ehenger had not responded to opportunities to give her account of events to Arkie Byrd. He said, in fact, that she had several opportunities to meet with Byrd and had done so.

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