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Employee union calls for investigation of housing authority board

Recent allegations of misconduct involving five of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority‘s 13 commissioners have several parties calling for authorities to investigate the agency‘s board.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents agency employees, on Thursday sent letters requesting action to attorneys for the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson —€” municipalities that appoint the commissioners in addition to Clark County.

On Wednesday, two housing authority commissioners also called for the involvement of the Nevada attorney general‘s office.

"Those (calls) for action need to be taken seriously," said Commissioner Dora LaGrande, who made the allegations public at Wednesday‘s board meeting.

The board oversees the housing authority, which provides housing for thousands of low-income families in Southern Nevada. The allegations, which arose as the board tackled possible layoffs and program outsourcing due to a budget deficit, range from conflict of interest to sexual harassment.

In the letters mailed by the SEIU Thursday, the union requests "a full investigation and audit" of the board. The letters call the accusations "very concerning."

"As the union representing the workers of the SNRHA, we will take all steps necessary to protect the community and to protect the workers from a hostile working environment and mistreatment," the letters read.

The housing authority has about 240 employees. Of them, 205 are eligible to participate in the union and 173 are members.

Speaking in general terms, Patty Cafferata, spokeswoman with the Nevada attorney general‘s office, said conflict of interest complaints need to be filed with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

For other allegations, someone would have to file an official complaint with the attorney general‘s office. Cafferata couldn‘t confirm or deny if someone had already filed an official complaint with the office about the housing authority.

LaGrande, who made the allegations, was the subject of an agenda item Wednesday to approve a review of her own conduct, with findings to be sent to Clark County, which appointed her to the board.

The item was tabled until August when allegations against the other commissioners ’€” Patrick Mitchell, Rev. Dave Casaleggio, Cheria Goodloe and Chairman Robert Noyes —€” may be reviewed at a public meeting.

Other board commissioners include Dishonne Muhammad, William O. McCurdy, Patrick Smith, Theresa Davis, Deborah Patton, Sanje Sedera, Anand Nair and Tim O‘Callaghan.

LaGrande claims certain commissioners are trying to remove her from the board because she recently challenged the agency‘s high legal fees and was standing up for employees.

A contract between the housing authority and Parker Nelson & Associates, which began on July 1, 2013, and has been amended four times, as of June 30, 2015, was standing at $1.2 million, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Review-Journal.

Debbie Laine, director of procurement with the housing authority, confirmed the amount.

According to a copy of Parker Nelson & Associates invoice from March, the firm charged the housing authority close to $10,000. Tasks the law firm charged for included $1,414 to attend a special board meeting at a rate of $205 an hour.

Several tasks related to the selection and removal process for commissioners also showed up as charges, including $558 for drafting and revising correspondence for Chairman Noyes on the matter.

On March 24, Theodore Parker, attorney with the law firm, sent his "analysis regarding the selection and removal process for housing authority commissioners" to Executive Director John Hill.

But that process is clearly outlined under Nevada law. Much of Parker‘s analysis reiterated state law and guidelines from the various municipalities that appoint commissioners.

When the Review-Journal asked Hill why the agency would spend money for such review when the process is spelled out in state statute, he said he would look into it and declined to comment further.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.

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