Raleigh mayor can help housing board

July 1, 2014 

It may seem a small step in a way, but Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane has a real opportunity to improve oversight at the Raleigh Housing Authority. The mayor can appoint two more members to the agency board, the size of which has been boosted from seven to nine members.

Fresh eyes are needed. After it was reported that RHA’s director, Steve Beam, made as much as $280,000 and that the board allowed him to stack up comp time and vacation – so much so that he had taken off up to 11 weeks in a year – the agency got unwanted attention. Some corrections were made.

Board members clearly had been lax in their duty and seemed to have fallen into a pattern of simply rubber-stamping Beam. For his part, the director apparently does a good job, but his compensation is higher than that of some big city housing directors with many more employees and much more property to supervise. In other words, the director was so well-liked by his board that board members lost perspective.

McFarlane now can appoint two members – she’ll also appoint any replacements for those who leave – and she should look to make the board more diverse and more representative of all areas of the city. That aim would mean appointing someone from the southeast corner of Raleigh. And she should make it clear to current board members that she and other Raleigh City Council members are keeping an eye on this board’s performance.

Ensuring that those of modest means are able to have adequate housing for their families is a noble mission, and board members deserve the appreciation of their fellow citizens. But those citizens have a right to expect that the agency, their agency, will perform with proper supervision and efficiency.

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