Fulton County

Housing authority board vice chairman resigns

Resignation letter cites unhappiness with issues at agency
The Gloversville Housing Authority board at a February meeting.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
The Gloversville Housing Authority board at a February meeting.

Gloversville Housing Authority Vice Chairman James Del Savio has resigned from the board, citing unhappiness with the issues involving the authority. 

The resignation follows a period of upheaval at the authority that boiled to the surface late last year. Del Savio said in a May 17 resignation letter to board Chairman Michael Ponticello and other board members that “it has been difficult for me to get my arms around the GHA and isolate what the real issues are.”

Del Savio became a board member last August, and said in an interview Tuesday that when he became a member he was told the authority and board were in good order.

“It appeared that way but I soon found that wasn’t the case,” said Del Savio.

He mentioned specifically the lengthy replacement process for tenants’ washers and dryers that’s been a theme at many board meetings this year, as well as what he characterized as interference from Gloversville Mayor Dayton King.

“I just think it’s getting too political for me,” said Del Savio. “I just have to move on, I’ve just became frustrated, that’s it.”

King appointed Gloversville Common Council member Marcia Weiss to the GHA board in April. Ponticello and other board members objected to the move, citing a possible conflict of interest and complaining that they weren’t consulted on the decision.

The mayor has the power to appoint five out of seven individuals to the board. The other two are known as resident-commissioners and are elected by GHA tenants.

The GHA board passed this month a resolution to refer Weiss’ appointment to the Fulton County Board of Ethics and/or the New York State Joint Commission of Public Ethics. Board members who supported the resolution fear a potential conflict of interest from Weiss serving as a City Council member and sitting on the GHA board.

In addition to what he sees as political interference, Del Savio cited in his resignation letter communication issues with tenants and inaction by the board as contributing to his decision to leave.

“The [board] continues to be blindsided at meetings with information the tenants report about the GHA of which the [board members] have not been informed,” he wrote. “In addition, it seems that we are continually discussing matters over and over, which should have been resolved.”

Del Savio’s resignation follows months of friction between the board and tenants, as well as between authority employees and upper management.

In January, the authority’s employees sent a letter to Ponticello requesting a meeting to discuss alleged ethical lapses by the authority’s executive director, Timothy Mattice. The letter accused Mattice of creating a hostile work environment and of committing a host of ethical improprieties, including diverting housing authority funds and manpower to a non-profit he founded.

The employees also alleged Mattice sent housing authority personnel to perform work at then-housing authority board Chairman Anthony Ferraro’s home. Ferraro resigned later this year.

The employees’ letter sparked an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that sought to verify portions of the letter’s claims.

In January Mattice placed several employees who signed the letter on unpaid leave, claiming that they divulged confidential information in their letter to Ponticello and the board. The move was seen by many as retaliation for the letter.

The employees unionized earlier this year under the Civil Service Employees Association and were eventually reinstated. Ten of the employees launched a $10 million lawsuit against Mattice and the board for allegedly violating state and federal whistleblower statutes.

Del Savio cited the treatment of the employees as contributing to his decision to quit the board, but added that he does not believe there have been legal or ethical violations committed by the board or Mattice.

Del Savio reiterated his criticism of King’s involvement in board matters. King began attending board meetings, even going into executive session with the board on occasion, after friction between tenants and the board came to a head earlier this year. In meetings during January and February tenants repeatedly complained about conditions involving bed bugs and the laundry facilities, and called for Mattice and Ponticello to be removed from their positions.

Tensions between the board and tenants have since eased, but King remains involved in appointing members and attending meetings.

“I don’t think he needed to be involved,” said Del Savio of King. “This happens to be an election year and there’s a lot of people that live in those high rises.”

King said he stepped in after the board refused to meet with authority employees after receiving their letter and after inaction by the board regarding tenants’ concerns.

“I wish I didn’t have to get involved. When tenants and employees tell me the director and the board won’t meet with them, I chose to listen to their concerns,” said King.

“It’s too bad he feels that way,” said King, when told of Del Savio’s comments. “If the board had just listened to the employees’ concerns, there probably wouldn’t be a $10 million dollar lawsuit.” 

“Also, I appoint the board, how do I not get involved?” he added. “It’s not a vacuum. I am the mayor of the city.”

Ponticello said the board regrets to see Del Savio leave.

“We’re sorry to see him go, he was an asset to the board,” said Ponticello on Tuesday.

Ponticello also bristled at King’s appointment of Weiss and his involvement in board matters. He complained at a meeting earlier this month that he and the board were not consulted on the decision, and voted in favor of the resolution to bring the matter to the ethics boards.

On Tuesday he said relations between board members are negatively affected by outside interference, but declined to mention King by name.

“I don’t think the relationships among the board members are deteriorating, I think the intervention of outside individuals who don’t necessarily have any direct impact on our decision-making has caused deterioration,” said Ponticello, who declined to elaborate on his comment.

King said he’ll be working to appoint Del Savio’s replacement.

“We’ll look to make an appointment to the board in the near future and anyone interested should submit an application to serve on a board to me,” he said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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