As published in the Record Journal – Sunday August 1, 2010
by Jason Zandri
Over the past few days there have a number of articles in the paper regarding the Wallingford Housing Authority. In addition to the stories there have been even more letters to the editor regarding the same.
Not surprisingly, the comments in the letters to the Editor have fallen along party lines.
I’d like to review some of the accomplishments that have been made recently. I personally view these changes to be a positive for not only the best interests of the tenants but for the taxpayers as well.
Some of the letter writers opined that the changes that have occurred since Chairman Fischer was elected Chair of the WHA have been politically motivated and have not been in the best interests of the tenants.
So I offer these to you to make your own assessment.
The WHA by-laws, established in 1985, were replaced with new by-laws that are now in compliance as some no longer complied with more up to date State statutes.
Recently, a labor attorney was hired to negotiate the new contract between the Authority and Union employees. Previously, Director Nere and Commissioner Prentice negotiated for the Authority. It is important to note that Director Nere received benefits that were awarded to the union employees. Given these facts, there is the possibility of a conflict of interest when someone is a key negotiator and a recipient of the final agreement.
WHA employees can no longer use Authority vehicles for their personal use. In a day and age of responsible use of resources I am all for this. I say this should get reviewed for possible additional expansion to other town departments.
Another change that was made was to rotate meetings among the different elderly complexes making it easier for tenants to attend. Prior to this, all meetings had been held at the administrative office of the WHA.
Public question and answer periods are now a regular part of the Authority agendas where before they were not. This allows for open discussion from tenants or residents that attend the meetings.
Are these changes in the best interests of the tenants? I think so.
The Democrat commissioners supported Bill SB 320 authorizing tenants to appoint their own commissioner instead of the Town Council doing so. Director Nere applauded the Governor for vetoing the bill.
How is that action in the best interests of the tenants or the Wallingford taxpayers? This could have made it possible for the tenants to have voice in choosing the body that manages their complexes much in the same way they control their own destiny when they vote for their representation at the Town Council level.
The Democrat commissioners voted for a forensic audit to evaluate the books and records of the Authority. The Republican members voted against this.
I realize there is an associated cost to do this but it is comparatively low when you look at the total amount of funds that the WHA is responsible for. When you additionally look at some of the reported expenditures and the resulting purchases that do not seem to be comparable there is at least enough argument to defend the valid need for this audit.
If the audit doesn’t turn up anything then it was a piece of mind exercise that cost little more than what the town recently spent defending itself in contract arbitration. The argument for arbitration and the logical expenditure was made in an effort to try keeping salary costs in line. Performing an audit in an atmosphere of questionable accounting results is a logical expenditure as well.
If there’s nothing to find, nothing will be found. If something can be found then monies can be saved / returned / reallocated.
Why the “no” votes opposing an audit?
A good check and balance system, especially in government, should always be considered.
In light of the tight economy it should be mandatory.