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Hempstead Housing Authority leadership in turmoil

The Village of Hempstead.

The Village of Hempstead. Credit: J.C. Cherubini, 2011

The troubled Hempstead Village Housing Authority has placed its executive director on 30-day administrative leave, while the new board chairman continues to refuse the mayor's call for his resignation.

Gilford Finch was elected chairman by the housing authority board on April 11, the same day the board voted to place executive director Stacey Stackhouse on administrative leave without pay, housing officials said Tuesday. The beleaguered agency is the subject of federal administrative and criminal investigations, officials said.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development designated the authority as "troubled" after it scored 57 out of 100 in a 2011 assessment report, and has been monitoring the authority's management, a HUD spokesman has said. Investigators from HUD's Office of the Inspector General, which operates independently from HUD, visited the authority on April 5 seeking financial records, housing officials said.

"We're trying to comply with their leadership and directive," Finch said about HUD.

Hempstead Mayor Wayne Hall Sr., who appoints five members of the authority's seven-member board, on April 10 called for the resignation of Finch and former chairman Cornell Bozier. Finch resisted and was elected chairman one day later by a 3-0 vote. One of the "yes" votes was his own; two positions were unfilled at the time. Bozier, who resigned less 24 hours after that, was present but did not vote.

Stackhouse, who makes $130,000 per year, had been on medical leave since March 22 before being put on leave, housing authority attorney Charlene Thompson said. Attempts to reach Stackhouse, executive director since May 2011, were not successful.

Accounting clerk Margarita Shif is handling the authority's day-to-day financial operations, officials said.

Finch, who has been on the board for two years, said the authority's financial problems include payments of as much as $13,000 a month to a contractor instead of the contractual monthly amount of $4,000. Stackhouse, not the board, approved the two one-year contracts and the payments to the contractor, who has been terminated, Finch said.

"Based on HUD directives to us, we're conducting an internal investigation," Finch said.

Bozier said board members illegally received $200 stipends per meeting for their volunteer work until he put a stop to the practice last year. He added neither annual budgets nor inventory lists were prepared by the agency since 2007.

Bozier said he resigned because he has moved out of Hempstead Village. "I didn't just walk away," said Bozier, who had served on the board from 2009. "I felt my job was done."

Hall said he would consult with HUD on how to remove Finch. State law says a mayor can remove a board member for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or misconduct" only after giving the member a copy of the charges and an opportunity for a public hearing, HUD officials said.

"Sometimes you just need a fresh start," Hall said. "I am just hoping that Gil will just step aside."

Hall's call for the resignations of Bozier and Finch without due process was wrong, Thompson said. "This is an unnecessary distraction," she said. "We've got two federal investigations that require our full attention to get these matters resolved."

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