HRA tense over new director dispute

Published 11:02 am Friday, April 20, 2012

The Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority sparred Thursday over a matter that recently plagued the City Council work session and Coffee with the Council.

Marilyn Prenosil reviewed the events at the HRA board’s Thursday meeting that led up to last weekend’s dispute at Coffee with the Council, sparking an extended debate. Disagreement surrounded how Hurm handled the matter of suggesting City Engineer Jon Erichson as a potential candidate for HRA executive director, should the position become available.

HRA Executive Director Jim Hurm said his notifying the council was only meant to be a courtesy call.

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“There was no intention to sway anybody,” he said.

HRA Chair Marv Repinski said the process of finding a new director had been “wounded and broken” by Hurm informing the city council before the HRA of his thoughts on Erichson.

“My view is it should have gone through this board first,” Repinski said, adding that there are rules about how a position must be filled and saying he was concerned some residents would mistake Erichson for having already been chosen.

Board member Roger Boughton defended Hurm’s actions, saying he was only the messenger and was unfairly treated during Coffee with the Council.

“It was inappropriate, it was degrading, it should never have been spoken,” he said.

Boughton ultimately conceded to Prenosil that he was a step ahead and he was responsible for the mixup, not Hurm. While disagreement and tension lingered through the end of the meeting, board members ultimately shared one sentiment.

“We can take it as a positive learning experience,” Hurm said.

Board member Joyce Poshusta said she was worried about the reputation the HRA might receive from disputes like this, and that personal issues were obstructing HRA proceedings.

Hurm then presented a list of steps the HRA could use to find and decide upon a new director to replace him. Hurm said in an April 2 memo to the city council and HRA that upcoming implementations in the HRA’s Housing Improvement Program would require more time than he can set aside.

“It is only because of our very competent HRA staff and because our HRA has not been growing or adding programs that we have done well,” Hurm wrote in an April 2 memo to the HRA.


HRA approves bids

The HRA unanimously approved seven separate bids to public and market rate housing for upcoming maintenance work.

The bids were awarded to the lowest bidder and benefited:

—Twin Towers with lavatory faucet replacement, plumbing improvements, a new pickup truck and new washers and dryers.

—Pickett Place with new electrical outlets to replace ones that don’t hold a plug well.

—Courtyard and Chauncey with lawn mowing services.

—And a variety of scattered sites to provide landscaping and roofing work.

Earlier in the meeting, the board received a positive report regarding its previous fiscal year.

“You are definitely generating enough cash to cover your operations,” said Kim Hillberg from accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, adding that there are no “red flags” to worry about.

The board also touched on the recently revealed Vision 2020 projects and expressed interest in possibly getting involved with one of them.