The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority’s board was one vote shy of firing executive director Chad Williams during a special meeting Tuesday, following an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint lodged against the public official by his secretary earlier this year.
Instead, the board decided to allow a committee of its members to further review the outside investigator’s findings and bring a recommended course of action to the board in mid-August. Board chairman Scott Black has appointed Commissioners Dan Shaw, Theresa Davis, Cheryl Davis and Sharon Davis to serve on the committee.
Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who cast the final vote to not fire Williams, said he felt the housing authority’s outside legal counsel, Teddy Parker, had not adequately prepared the board to make the decision. Weekly said he also wanted Williams to appear before the board to answer questions about the investigation.
“There were some findings that would have made the hair on the back of your neck curl up,” Weekly said of the investigation. “There’s some findings that would have made you all very concerned.”
Commissioners had anticipated Williams would attend Tuesday’s meeting and that he and Parker would answer questions regarding the investigation. Nevada law requires that public boards discussing the alleged misconduct of chief executives must do so in a public meeting.
But about an hour before Tuesday’s meeting began, Williams emailed Parker and Black that he would not be attending.
Williams wrote that Parker had confirmed to him only on Monday afternoon that the meeting would proceed the next day, giving Williams and his attorney an inadequate time to prepare. He also wrote that not properly serving him could result in any actions stemming from the meeting to be deemed “illegal and void” by a state or federal court.
“I welcome the opportunity for a public forum,” Williams wrote. “In my opinion, there is nothing that has risen to the level of the Board considering my termination of employment, unless there are some Board members having retaliatory vendettas against me for authorizing our Fraud Investigator to work with the (Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General) to investigate received complaints regarding these Commissioners.”
Williams sent his staff an email last week stating he was “clear of the allegation,” which was first reported by the Review-Journal in April. But Commissioner Sanje Sedera said after Tuesday’s meeting that he disagreed with that assertion.
A report summarizing the investigation found that Williams did not sexually harass his employee, Sedera said, but the document also did not completely exonerate the executive director.
“The investigator concluded there is definite violation of (the housing authority’s) personnel policy,” said Sedera, who voted to fire Williams.
Williams, who was hired in June 2018 at an annual salary of almost $153,000, could not be reached for comment after the meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting was held at the request of Commissioners Theresa Davis and Cheryl Davis. The motion to fire Williams failed on a 3-4 vote, with Commissioners Black, Weekly, Dan Shaw and Sharon Davis opposing it. The motion to proceed forward with a committee review of the investigation passed unanimously. Commissioners Misha Hooks and Olivia Diaz did not attend the meeting.
Some housing authority employees spoke during the meeting to support Williams. Martha Floyd told board members they should forgive the executive director for making mistakes and consider that many employees felt the agency was operating better now than it ever had before.
“Some of you are leaving this board,” Floyd said. “Please do not leave us in chaos.”
Williams levels accusations
In his Tuesday email to Black, Williams recommended the board immediately begin the process of terminating its contract with Parker for being “irresponsible and unprofessional” with the noticing process.
Williams also unleashed a salvo of allegations against four board members, writing that they “willingly and knowingly engaged in uncovered and alleged unlawful activity.” Because of the accusations, Williams wrote, the commissioners had “serious conflicts of interest” that rendered Tuesday’s meeting “retaliatory, improper and illegal.”
Williams reminded Black that a recently completed internal investigation into Commissioner Theresa Davis found that she had defrauded the agency’s housing choice voucher program to maximize her benefits. The housing authority is in the process of ending her housing assistance, a move that would remove her from the board.
Sedera, who works as a real estate agent, is under investigation for improperly renting homes to housing choice voucher participants while serving on the commission, Williams wrote. Williams also accused Sedera of pressuring housing authority executives to spend approximately $5 million to buy two properties “for which we suspect (Sedera) has a hidden financial interest.”
Commissioner Cheryl Davis has been under investigation since September 2018 for not reporting her income to the housing choice voucher program, Williams wrote. He also alleged Davis pressured Black to direct Williams to rehire two fired employees whom she was friends with.
And Williams wrote that an unnamed commissioner attempted to “blackmail” him to pay for a family member’s cellphone bill and to fire an employee because the employee and commissioner’s family member had ended a long-term romantic relationship. Black and an unnamed member of Williams’ executive team both witnessed the blackmail attempt, Williams wrote.
Sedera and Cheryl Davis denied all of the allegations after Tuesday’s meeting.
Cloaked in secrecy
Since directing Parker to hire an outside human resources firm in March, the housing authority has kept details about the investigation into Williams cloaked in secrecy.
The agency has not made public the name of the human resources firm, and it has denied multiple public record requests from the Review-Journal to review the company’s contract and billing invoices.
Commissioners reviewed a 15-page summary report of the investigation during a closed-door meeting on July 2. Weekly said Parker told them questions about the report would need to be asked during a public meeting.
Parker did not allow the commissioners to leave the closed-door meeting with a copy of the summary report. They also were not provided a copy at Tuesday’s meeting.
Parker and the board do not plan to make the report available to the public because it “is a confidential personnel matter dealing with a current employee,” Williams wrote in an email to the Review-Journal on July 24.
Accuser files complaint
The housing authority’s meeting next month will likely not mark the end of the matter.
Williams’ accuser filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission on July 23, according to the secretary’s attorney.
“My client still intends on pursuing her claims as she believes she was treated unlawfully,” Las Vegas labor attorney Tony Golden said.
Golden declined to comment further. NERC spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said the complaint is considered confidential under Nevada law.