Raleigh Housing Authority board wrongly defends lavish thank-you dinner

November 25, 2013 

Steve Beam, who was handsomely paid $271,000 last year to head the Raleigh Housing Authority, apparently has a delicate palate and a heart-felt concern that members of the RHA governing board might have the same.

Thus, he sees to it that, in tribute for their service, they go to an annual dinner at one of Raleigh’s fanciest restaurants, Second Empire. Those dinners have cost as much as $3,000 each December, and attendees include the spouses of board members. The News & Observer’s Colin Campbell reported on this fine dining last week. Beam also was featured in a recent series about highly paid officials that included him and community college presidents who are rewarded perhaps too generously by governing boards that don’t do much governing.

But rather than react appropriately after the embarrassment of these dinners was revealed, Beam defiantly said the dinner would be proceeding. The invitations would go out soon, he said.

Clearly this extravagance is inappropriate, and board members should decline to participate and bar any further expenditures. This is a service agency, and those it serves are poor people with desperate needs. It should be honor enough to help without accepting a pretentious present of sorts.

Regardless of where the money for the dinner comes from, providing extravagant dining as a reward for service to the poor demonstrates bad judgment.

Board members should instead host a dinner for their constituents in public housing and use the occasion to learn from them their worries and concerns. That would be a dinner worth having.

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