Housing Group Concern Valid

During their most recent meeting, Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority board members approved half a million dollars in payments and accepted their executive director’s resignation — all in six minutes. No wonder Jefferson County commissioners are concerned.

JMHA administration has been a concern in various ways for years. During their meeting last week, commissioners once again discussed the agency.

“It appears, and there have been allegations, that a lot of decisions are not being made at the meetings,” Commissioner Tom Gentile said. “When a meeting lasts six minutes, it may support the allegations.” Indeed.

Another possibility, of course, is that authority board members simply breezed through approving more than $500,000 in invoices and the director’s resignation without giving them much consideration. That, too, would be a problem.

Executive Director Debbie Bailey’s retirement apparently was discussed in an “executive session” closed to the public, members of which were not given an opportunity to address the board before it went behind closed doors.

During their meeting this week, commissioners may hear from their own representative on the board, Tony Morelli. Gentile requested that he be asked to attend the meeting to report on the JMHA.

Gentile’s concerns are serious business. Ohio’s open meetings law requires that agencies such as the authority conduct their business in public. Meeting secretly to discuss matters such as payment of invoices is forbidden. If JMHA board members are doing that, they are in violation of the law.

This is not the first expression of concern about the authority. Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, suggested three board members should resign. He said “significant internal problems” may jeopardize the JMHA’s very existence.

Especially coming as it does after Bailey’s resignation, new allegations about the JMHA and its board need to be investigated thoroughly. If irregularities are occurring, those responsible need to be removed from positions of authority and replaced with others who can be relied upon to conduct business openly and legally.

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