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Wilmington Housing Authority Director resigns after vote of no confidence

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

The Wilmington Housing Authority needs a new director for the third time in five years. Executive Director John Hill resigned Friday.

Hill’s resignation came a week after the WHA Board of Commissioners suspended him with pay. The board passed a vote of no confidence in Hill the week before.  

Board Chair James Spadola said at the time no one issue prompted the vote—although it came after high-profile complaints of poor maintenance at a senior housing complex and a scuffle involving a housing authority employee, a resident and an activist.  All three were charged.

Spadola said during a special meeting Friday that the Board appreciates Hill’s service—but both parties have agreed to part ways.

“John Hill and the Board of Commissioners of the Wilmington Housing Authority have agreed that they have fundamental differences regarding how best to run the organization and achieve its mission for 2021 and beyond,” Spadola said. “Therefore they have agreed that a separation is in all parties’ best interest, and wish each other well in all future endeavors."

Spadola said he would not be providing the media any additional information about Hill’s severance agreement.  

Tom Harkless will serve as interim director. He’ll start Tuesday and serve for an approximate period of six months, Spadola said in a press release Friday.


Harkless retired in 2014 as the executive director of the Fayette County Housing Authority, a position he’d held for more than a decade. 


A biography of Harkless supplied by Spadola Friday emphasizes his experience turning around several “troubled” housing authorities, including the Lancaster City Housing Authority and the Chicago Housing Authority. 


But the Fayette County Housing Authority had its own issue under Harkless’s leadership. In 2002, the authority was cited for violations of federal regulations pertaining to two contracts awarded to companies associated with Harkless’s relatives, according to, which covers southwestern Pennsylvania.   


“I screwed up,” Harkless reportedly told the Tribune-Review at the time. 


John Hill was hired to lead the Wilmington Housing Authority in 2018 after the previous director was fired over concerns about his credentials. Longtime director Fred Purnell resigned in 2016 after the Board of Commissioners voted not to automatically renew his contract. 


The News Journal reported after Hill was hired that he’d previously been ousted from a Nevada housing authority amid accusations of gender discrimination, safety violations and other issues. 

This story has been updated.

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



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