Relations between residents and the Gloversville Housing Authority board appear to be looking up after months of strife between the two sides regarding the responsiveness of the board to tenant concerns and management at the authority.
About 40 people attended the monthly board meeting Thursday, including Gloversville Mayor Dayton King and Common Council member Vince DeSantis.
“We’re concerned and want to offer support and encourage the board to listen to the residents and employees,” said King, of why city officials attended the meeting.
Tensions came to the surface in late December when nine of the authority’s 11 employees sent a signed letter to the board alleging ethical improprieties on behalf of the authority’s executive director -- their boss, Timothy Mattice -- who they said has created a “hostile work environment” since taking over the job 18 months ago. The employees asked for a meeting with the board to discuss their grievances, absent Mattice, which the board has so far declined to do.
Mattice responded by placing four of the employees on unpaid suspension because, he said, in sending the letter to the board they disclosed confidential information and went outside the bounds of the authority’s grievance process. The employees are now seeking union representation through the Civil Service Employees Association, and the union is now negotiating with the board’s labor attorney, Bryan Golberger.
Tenants who are also dissatisfied with Mattice’s performance called for his ouster at a contentious meeting in January, but tensions seem to have eased over the last two board meetings -- on Feb. 2 and Thursday.
At Thursday’s meeting, the same concerns cropped up that residents have raised at past meetings -- security in the buildings, the presence of bedbugs, the location of security cameras, and maintenance-related issues, particularly at Forest Hills Towers -- but there were also signs that relations are improving.
Several tenants thanked the board for listening to them and the progress that has been made, such as the repairing of a large washing machine at Forest Hill, one of three authority developments. Gloversville Housing Authority Board Chair Michael Ponticello said wireless internet is set to be installed in the community room at Forest Hill.
At least two washing machines are still down at Forest Hill, and Mattice told residents that he’s continuing to work on the issue with the authority’s appliance vendor. Several board members questioned why the authority couldn’t simply buy their own machines.
Ponticello also told residents that he asked for a quote from Gloversville Police Chief Marc Porter on how much it would cost to install surveillance cameras that record the parking lot at Forest Hill, where many residents say they feel unsafe and where property crimes have been reported in the past.
“I can say with confidence that as soon as we get that number, if it is within reason, we’ll proceed with that,” said Ponticello.
Despite the overall congeniality of the meeting, Mattice did not escape unscathed.
Dan Conyne, who said he worked for the authority for 24 years, retiring six years ago as the “modernization coordinator,” questioned why the board has ignored the housing authority employees’ request to meet.
“I don’t understand why you all haven’t had a meeting with the employees who signed the letter about Mr. Mattice,” said Conyne.
Resident Bob Castiglione, one of the more outspoken critics of the board, questioned why the board hasn’t fired Mattice, a question he’s asked at the past three board meetings.
“There seems to be no solution short of intervention from [the U.S. Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development] or the courts,” said Castiglione, in calling for Mattice to be fired. Ponticello banged his gavel before Castiglione could finish his comments and said the board “would not entertain such nonsense.”
HUD is investigating the claims against Mattice laid out in the letter, which include accusations that he illegally hired his brother as a painter at the authority. A HUD spokesman said the agency is continuing to request information of the board on the matter.
“I can’t really give you more details at this point beyond confirming that we did request additional information from the board and are awaiting their response,” said a HUD spokesman.
The board’s lawyer, Ben Mcguire, declined to make the correspondence between HUD and the board available.
Meanwhile, the deadline for the board to recognize authority employees as unionized is Friday. CSEA Capital Region President Ron Briggs said he believes the union has the majority of GHA employees necessary to obtain union status, and that the party is ready to plead their case to the state Public Employee Relations Board.
Briggs said CSEA can file their paperwork Friday proving a majority of GHA employees are seeking representation by the union, “but if [the board] voluntarily recognizes us after that we can withdraw the paperwork.”
Ponticello said Thursday he’s not aware of the status of negotiations between Goldberger and the CSEA. He did note that he’s seen increased cooperation and communication between the board and residents.
“I just think that we’ve listened to what people had to say at the last meeting...I think people are understanding, they’re being reasonable, we’re trying to be reasonable, collectively, and trying to compromise and get things done,” said Ponticello.
Asked if he thinks that increased communication was helped along by residents airing their grievances over the past two months, Ponticello said, “I think it helped. Some of use are new and we needed to hear their concerns. We’re not ignoring them, we’re moving forward.”