Housing authority chief gets raise despite shortfall

The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board voted 8-5 Thursday to give a raise and a bonus to Executive Director John Hill despite a projected $1.4 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2015.

Hill’s critics on the board were vehement in their opposition. His supporters were mostly silent, except for Chairman Father Dave Casaleggio, who supported the job Hill has done since 2010 and said he saw improvements.

Board members Dora LeGrande, Tim O’Callaghan, Marco Rauda and Dishonne Muhammad said giving Hill a raise and a bonus was not right when there was a projected shortfall of $1.4 million, when employees were struggling because of the two-day-a-month furlough biting into their paychecks and when his evaluation by the entire board averaged that he “met expectations.”

Any employee who had a 2.1 average rating and “met expectations” rating would not receive either a raise or a bonus, according to an authority official.

But eight of the board members voted for Hill to receive a 2.5 percent raise and a 2.5 percent bonus. In 2012, his raise and bonus were 5 percent each.

His 2013 base salary was $135,306, and his overall annual compensation, which included extra payments and benefits, totaled $216,252, according to Transparent Nevada.

His base salary will increase by $3,382, and his bonus will be the same.

LeGrande criticized Hill because in his self-evaluation he cited accomplishments from previous years. She said giving him a raise and a bonus of any amount when his evaluation by the board was that he “met expectations” was a slap to employees.

“How can we in all good conscience hold him to a lower standard?”

LeGrande also expressed concern about an employee survey indicating poor morale at the agency, which handles low-income housing for Southern Nevada, merging various troubled housing agencies under one in 2010. The authority covers Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and unincorporated areas of Clark County.

Rauda said that “when we are in a deficit and employees are suffering, I can’t support a raise or a bonus.”

Muhammad complained that Hill “wanted to change my scores and negotiate them.”

O’Callaghan said if he were in Hill’s position, he would have suggested taking a pay decrease to show leadership

On Hill’s watch, there have been two critical reports from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.

On Aug. 20, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote HUD Secretary Julian Castro seeking more information about five public housing authorities, including the authority in Southern Nevada, and their use of federal economic stimulus money.

The letter said some of the questionable expenses included excessive salaries and bonuses, severance packages and the establishment of a credit union. The audit didn’t list any of those problems in Southern Nevada.

The housing authority received more than $21 million in grants from the Recovery Act capital fund.

The inspector general found the agency didn’t always make sure contractors were paid prevailing wages, noting that a group of employees were underpaid a total of $7,300. The audit also found the authority didn’t always investigate complaints filed by contractor employees and didn’t always report the number of jobs created by the money.

Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote that audits of the five agencies “appears to be yet another example of HUD simply pushing money out the door with little or no oversight.”

Also at Thursday’s board meeting, the fiscal 2015 budget scheduled to start Sept. 30 was not approved because of disputes between the authority and the Service Employees International Union, which represents most of the authority’s workers.

No agreement has been reached on the union contract after 19 months and 30 negotiating sessions.

A special meeting has yet to be scheduled to approve the budget before the start of the next fiscal year.

Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275. Find her on Twitter: @janeannmorrison.

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