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Politics & Government

Director of Wilmington Housing Authority suspended following no-confidence vote

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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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The Wilmington Housing Authority headquarters on Walnut Street. A sign on the door said the office would be closed for a period Thursday afternoon, for a staff meeting.

The Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) Board of Commissioners voted to suspend Executive Director John Hill with pay during a virtual committee hearing Thursday afternoon. The body will decide next week whether to fire him.

The Board passed a vote of no confidence in Hill last week, after complaints of poor maintenance at a WHA senior housing property reached county officials. A recent meeting at the property ended in a physical scuffle and three people charged. 

Board Chair James Spadola said during Thursday’s meeting the suspension means Hill loses access to all WHA property and computers. 

“John, please gather your personal effects and leave immediately,” Spadola said. 

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Spadola said former WHA director MaryAnn Russ will lead an assessment of operations and conditions at the housing authority. The board will meet Nov. 13 at 12 p.m. to vote on whether to terminate or continue Hill's contract. 

The Board did not discuss the suspension publicly during the brief meeting Thursday, but went into executive session before passing the motion.

Hill could not be reached for comment. When asked at the WHA office on Walnut Street Thursday, staff said they did not know where Hill was. 

Board of Commissioners members would not comment last week on whether they wanted to see Hill replaced. 

Spadola, who was elected to an at-large seat on Wilmington City Council Tuesday, said the no-confidence vote expressed the Board’s dissatisfaction with the “level of service” it had gotten from Hill. 

“The Board will hold WHA accountable, and the way we do that is through the executive director,” Spadola said last week. “We look forward to things improving.” 

WHA Board of Commissioners secretary Steve Washington said after the no-confidence vote he was 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. 

Hill was hired in 2018 after the previous director was fired over concerns about his credentials. 

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.  

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

This story has been updated. 

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