Something at GHA is seriously wrong

There is something seriously wrong at the Gloversville Housing Authority.

First let me say I worked at GHA for 17 years as maintenance supervisor and for the last five of those years as both maintenance supervisor and modernization coordinator, when the two positions were consolidated. I retired in late January 2015.

The entire time I worked at the GHA we had a healthy cash reserve of between $2 million and 4 million, depending upon the upgrades being undertaken and the varying degree of support received from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The GHA consistently scored in the 90s on HUD performed Real Estate Assessment Inspections. In fact, one year we had the highest score (99 percent) in New York state.

These inspections delved into every aspect of the Housing Authority’s operation, finance, physical plant, maintenance response time, a tenant survey and occupancy rate. They produced a total score between 0-100 percent. The GHA maintened a high performance status (above 90 percent) on almost all these inspections conducted every two to three years.

Recently, the new board chairman, Mike Ponticello, stated on WENT News (Jan. 30) that the Executive Director Tim Mattice got the authority “out of the red.” This is a misleading statement. The GHA was never in the red.

When Mr. Mattice was hired 18 months ago, the authority had a close to $2 million cash reserve. The annual operating budget may vary from just under projection to just over projection depending on what happens during the year and how it aligns with the budget projection established at the beginning of the fiscal year. This does not mean the GHA was insolvent or “in the red.”

When Mr. Mattice was hired 18 months ago, there were 13 employees, all longtime, seasoned staff, that had been working there, some for decades. Mr. Mattice was hired at a salary of $70,000. He is now receiving $102,292. So at some point during the past 18 months, he received a near 47 percent raise.

However, the public has no way of knowing when that was, because there is no record of it in the public meeting minutes. Also, during the past year two employees left outright and one retired early bringing the staff down to 11, including Mr. Mattice. New hiring was not done, making it easy to end the year in the black with budget salaries not being expended.

Mr. Ponticello says “there are good things happening at the Housing Authority.” I would like to know what they are because recently about 80 plus tenants attended a board meeting to complain about feeling abandoned and marginalized.

Nine of the 11 employees signed a letter requesting a meeting with the board alleging violation of civil service law, violation of ethics laws, nepotism, misuse of public funds and the creation of a hostile work environment. Four of these employees were suspended immediately and two went on medical leave. This leaves five employees, including Mr. Mattice, to perform the work previously done by 14.

The Housing Authority since its inception in the 1960s has never operated like it has in the past 18 months. This is because Mr. Mattice has been operating a public authority as if he inherited it from a family member with no regard for the laws governing public authorities.

The board of directors is charged with finding the cause of the problem and rectifying it. So far, they have shown that they are not up to the task. Misleading and misguided public statements will do no one any good.

These are large buildings with complex plumbing, electrical, ventilation and heating systems. They need to be monitored, adjusted, and maintained on a regular basis. To say nothing of the human interaction needed to service the hundreds of people living there.

Unless this situation is rectified soon the legal expenses, lack of day to day attention and upgrades will turn a community asset that has served Gloversville and the surrounding area for more than 50 years into a liability for the city.

I would suggest the board of directors meet in private, barring no member, with no employees present and openly assess the cause of this turmoil.

A dedicated seasoned staff that has been in place performing well for a long period of time does not just turn against the organization that has been supporting them for all that time for no apparent reason.

Neither do tenants, some of whom, have contended living there for 10 or 20 years, express the concerns that were stated at the Jan. 26 board meeting. A federal agency is investigating all the allegations that have been made. This situation needs to be resolved and ultimately it will be the board members who will be held liable.

Frank DeSantis lives in Gloversville.