New Vermilion housing authority board cuts executive director loose

New Vermilion housing authority board cuts executive director loose

ROSSVILLE — The new board of commissioners for the Vermilion County Housing Authority decided Tuesday to end the agency's contract with its executive director, according to the board's chairman.

As of Tuesday, R.M. Jackson will no longer serve as executive director, said Chairman Lon Henderson.

"Ms. R.M. Jackson has been the executive director of the Vermilion County Housing Authority since May 2016. The board of commissioners appreciates the work that she has accomplished during the last two years; however, the VCHA is moving in a new direction," said Henderson, who would not disclose any more than that regarding the decision.

The development came at the end of a special meeting Tuesday, he said, adding that while the meeting was not for the purpose of considering Jackson's employment, at the conclusion of the board's business, a motion was made, seconded and approved "to move a new direction."

It's the latest development in a string of major changes at the housing authority recently.

In March, Longview Bank and Trust filed a lawsuit against the agency in an effort to recoup money owed from a more-than-$1 million loan that the bank refinanced for the county housing authority in 2012. The original loan and the refinance was arranged by former executive director Tony Hasbargen, who was fired around 2013 over allegations of improper spending.

The loan was to be used for renovations of housing authority properties, but when officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development became aware of the situation, they refused to allow the local authority to use federal funds to pay the loan back because federal property cannot be mortgaged.

Frustrated that HUD officials did not find a compromise to avoid the lawsuit, the entire board of commissioners resigned in March. Only one of the five commissioners was on the commission at the time the loan was refinanced, but the entire commission had been working on a compromise and had been hopeful one would be achieved.

With no commissioners, the Vermilion County Board appointed the commissioners of the Danville Housing Authority to pull double duty, serving on the county housing authority commission indefinitely as the lawsuit plays out.

Danville's housing authority oversees public and voucher-based housing in that city, while the county authority operates public housing in several other towns, including Rossville, Hoopeston and Georgetown.

In April, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who represents Vermilion County, asked HUD's inspector general for a thorough investigation into all aspects of the loan, including an accounting of how the funds were spent.

Henderson said the commissioners plan to consider an interim director.

He said they've been in conversation with the director of HUD's Chicago field office, and that's what they would like them to consider. Henderson said there are options for interim leadership, including a private contractor, such as Steve Clark and Associates, a firm that ran the Danville Housing Authority on an interim basis a few years ago.

Henderson said another example is in Peoria, where the housing authority has a memorandum of understanding with Springfield's housing authority to provide oversight services to get it through a leadership transition.

Henderson said commissioners plan to talk about a possible interim solution at their next meeting June 21.

Sections (2):News, Local