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Delaware Headlines

Future of Wilmington Housing Authority leadership unclear after no-confidence vote

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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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A Wilmington Housing Authority apartment building

Leadership at the Wilmington Housing Authority is again under scrutiny after the agency's Board of Commissioners passed a resolution of no confidence in its executive director this week.

The unanimous vote of no confidence in Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) Executive Director John Hill came after complaints of poor maintenance at a senior housing complex reached county officials.

Hill was hired in 2018 after the previous director was fired over concerns about his credentials. Hill’s own troubled employment history was raised by the News Journal after he was hired. 

Board of Commissioners Chair James Spadola will not say whether the Board will look to replace Hill. But he says the no-confidence vote expressed the Board’s dissatisfaction with the “level of service” it has gotten from Hill. 

“We look forward to meeting with him and sitting down,” said Spadola, who is running for an at-large city council seat. “The Board will hold WHA accountable, and the way we do that is through the executive director. And we look forward to things improving.” 

WHA Board of Commissioners secretary Steve Washington says he’s concerned about the internal atmosphere of WHA, the organization’s handling of the coronavirus, as well as slow progress on repairs and maintenance at properties. 

“We don’t want to be a slumlord," said Washington. “We want to be a great landlord. We have enough slumlords in the world.”

Washington, who is running for state senate, also declined to say whether Hill should be replaced. 

 

“Let me just say this—something has to be done to [effect] good change,” he said. 

 

“We [the Board] have to come together,” Washington added. “We have a decision to make.”

Several other members of the Board of Commissioners declined to comment. 

A meeting at Park View about maintenance issues last week ended in a physical scuffle. WHA official Andrew Johnson, activist Jeff Day and resident Carl Webster were each charged with one count of offensive touching. 

When asked whether this incident prompted the no-confidence vote, Spadola said there was “no one issue” that precipitated it.

Miriam Larkin is a tenant at Park View, one of WHA's senior housing buildings. She says there are pests in the building, leaking windows that create puddles in stairwells, and one elevator that has been out of service for years. 

“It’s a very dangerous situation,” she said. 

Jean Walker-Watson is also a tenant at Park View. She says WHA has been slow to respond to repeated requests for maintenance at her unit, and has only supplied short-term fixes. Walker-Watson supports the no-confidence vote. 

“[Hill] should have been gone,” she said. “And also the staff underneath. Simply because he doesn’t follow through. He doesn’t want to talk to us.”

Hill did not respond to multiple requests for comment. WHA staff also did not respond to requests for a recording of Monday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting. 

The News Journal reported in 2018 that before he was hired in Wilmington, Hill was ousted from a Nevada housing authority amid accusations of gender discrimination, safety violations and other issues.  

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, who appoints one member to the Board and was present at last week’s meeting at the Park View building, said Tuesday that “a lot of work” needs to be done on WHA properties.

“However this sorts itself out, I’m eager to see that work done,” he said. 

Meyer declined to comment on whether he would like to see Hill replaced. 

John Rago, deputy chief of staff for policy and communications in the Wilmington Mayor's office, said Tuesday Mayor Mike Purzycki had "no comment yet" on the Board's action against Hill. The Mayor of Wilmington appoints the majority of the WHA Board of Commissioners members.

Disclosure: Delaware Public Media President Jane Vincent is a member of the Wilmington Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. 

 

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