Local elected officials will have more control over the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority under a new law that takes effect Saturday.
Senate Bill 183 will shrink the housing authority’s board of commissioners from 13 to nine members. Only three of the current commissioners will retain their seats under the changes.
To fill some of the vacant seats, the law requires the Clark County Commission and the councils of the county’s three largest cities — Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson — to each appoint one of their members to serve on the new board.
It’s a major shift away from the 2009 law that regionalized the valley’s three public housing agencies in their goal to provide public housing to thousands of low-income families.
That law stipulated elected government officials could not be on the board.
“Having no elected official oversight became an issue because in the long run we’re still responsible for the housing authority,” said County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a former assemblywoman who co-wrote the 2009 legislation. “(Elected officials) bring some financial oversight, some stability.”
But adding elected officials to the housing authority commission could politicize the board, warned Dora LaGrande, former chairman of the housing authority board.
“They’ll be pulling against each other for their own districts,” she said. “I think they’re going to curry favor with the constituency that they serve.”
Other board members
The board’s other seats will also be appointed by elected officials.
Four of those seats will be held by current recipients of assistance from the housing authority. The county commission and city councils will each appoint a resident to fill these seats.
That means that current housing authority board members Cheria Goodloe of Clark County; Misha Hooks of Las Vegas; and Theresa Davis of North Las Vegas, will keep their current seats.
Henderson’s resident commissioner seat is vacant, so its city council will need to fill it.
The county commission will also appoint one additional at-large member, who is not required to be a commissioner.
Terms for housing authority commissioners will last four years.
Under its new structure the housing authority board won’t have a quorum of members until local governments begin making appointments.
Giunchigliani said she’d like to appoint fellow County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly to the board.
Weekly’s geographical district lies in North Las Vegas, which contains a large portion of the housing authority’s population. The commissioner also lived in local public housing as a child.
“I think it’s a discussion for the board, and we’ll do what’s in the best interest of the housing authority. But I’d be honored to do it,” Weekly said of being appointed. “It would be a full-circle moment for me.”
County spokesman Erik Pappa said the county will likely take applications for its at-large position on the housing authority board. Commissioners would make their selection during their July 18 meeting.
Giunchigliani said she’d also like to appoint LaGrande or Sanje Sedera, whose commission seat was also eliminated, back to the board in the county’s at-large seat.
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said he favored appointing Scott Black, the city council’s newest Ward 3 representative, to the board.
“He has a very keen sense of making good decisions and running an agency with his business experience,” Lee said of Black. “It’s going to be a brand new committee so we have to make sure it’s up to speed.”
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said through a spokesman that her city’s appointee will be determined at a future city council meeting. She did not comment on who might be selected.
Henderson spokesman David Cherry said his city’s council will make its appointments at its July 18 meeting.
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During what was the last meeting for many, Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority commissioners didn’t hesistate making decisions.
They unanimously voted to give staff member Amparo Gamazo the power to act as the agency’s interim executive director.
Gamazo had been leading the housing authority as its agency oversight director since deputy executive director Dwayne Alexander resigned in February. The contract of the last executive director, John Hill ended in April 2016.
Commissoners also voted to offer former director of affordable housing Shannon Gammie a $225,000 settlement to end an ongoing gender and racial discrimination lawsuit in federal court.
The authority has paid $177,500 in settlements to former employees already this year, but SNRHA attorney Theodore Parker said the settlements did not indicate the agency was at fault in any of the cases.
“Its simply is a mechanism to buy peace and end the costly litigation that has gone on and could continue going forward,” he said.