Head of Annapolis housing agency resigns

Former police chief to fill in

May 14, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

The head of the Annapolis Housing Authority resigned Thursday amid tensions with the agency's governing board and after facing with prospect that board might fire him.

In a prepared statement issued by the authority's lawyer, Eric V. Brown said, "I felt it was time to move on."

Asked in a telephone interview if he thought the seven-member board, with the recent appointment of a new member, had the five votes to fire him, Brown replied, "They did."

He said: "I think that the board decided that they wanted someone else to lead to agency." He said terms of his resignation ­— he left immediately — include an agreement that bars him from discussing the matter. He had been the executive director for almost five years.

A retired Annapolis police chief, Joseph Johnson, who was hired as directory of security, is filling in until an interim executive director is named.

The board's current chairman, Carl O. Snowden, had criticized the agency's operation before his appointment to the board last year.

Snowden, a civil rights activist, Annapolis politician and civil rights director for the Maryland Attorney General's Office, disputed that he was critical of Brown. He referred to his statement issued through the board's attorney: "Mr. Brown performed capably as executive director for the housing authority and we wish him well in his future endeavors." He later added, "It was Mr. Brown's decision to resign."

Unsuccessful Democratic mayoral candidate Trudy McFall, a former chairwoman and member of the housing authority board, said she believed tensions between Brown and some board members stemmed from disagreements over housing authority rules.

Brown had been shepherding the agency, which has 10 communities in Annapolis with about 3,500 residents, through its largest reconstruction of housing in years. But the housing authority had also been taking heat for what some had considered operational dysfunctions. As director, Brown was in charge of enforcing rules, some of which were unpopular with tenants.

Among them was the banning of people considered troublemakers from housing authority property. More than a year ago, Snowden had asked the agency to review its banning policies, saying he believed it did not make sense to treat a rapist and someone with an open-container violation equally and that the policy was unfairly enforced.

Some tenants complained the banning list was unevenly enforced, easy to get on and difficult to get off, had unclear rules and left some elderly residents with most of their children and grandchildren barred from visiting.

In contrast, Annapolis police said banning criminals and other troublemakers is an excellent way to help fight crime and upgrade the quality of life in public housing. The authority pays the police department about $100,000 a year to enforce the policy. Violators have been criminally charged with trespassing, because housing authority property is considered private property.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the existing practice illegal. The housing authority board was in the process of examining its banning practices when a group of tenants, backed by the ACLU, sued the city and housing authority last year. That case is pending.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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