The entire board of the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority announced they will resign today in response to the Blaine County Commission's appointment of a Sun Valley city employee to the housing board.
The commissioners appointed Sun Valley City Administrator Virginia Egger to the BKHA board on Tuesday, Feb. 21. They said Egger was being appointed as a Blaine County resident, not a Sun Valley city employee.
On Monday, BKHA Chairman Timothy Eagan sent a letter to Blaine County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael, claiming Egger's appointment "violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Idaho statutes enabling the creation of housing authorities."
The BKHA, which is committed to promoting affordable housing in Blaine County, consists of two full-time staff members and five board members. Those staff members—Michael David, executive director, and Drew Sanderford, associate director—will continue to work for BKHA, Eagan said. David declined to comment on the matter.
In addition to Eagan, board members David Kipping, Jim Laski, Charlie Holt and Derek Ryan announced they will resign.
"It's a fundamental issue. You can't have a sitting employee of a county or city sitting on a board that will be impacted by that city or county," Eagan said.
But there are questions whether the appointment specifically violates any statutes.
Citing Idaho law, Eagan wrote that "No commissioner of any authority may be an officer or employee of the county (city) for which the authority is created."
But Eagan acknowledged that Sun Valley "is not technically a '... city for which the authority was created.'"
The Blaine County Commission released a written statement Tuesday expressing regret over the board members' decision to resign. But the commissioners maintain the appointment did not violate any laws.
"Ms. Egger will serve as a resident of Blaine County, not in her capacity as a city official," the commissioners wrote. "Should Sun Valley officially join the housing authority in the future, she would, of course, resign from the board as the law provides."
The commissioners added that Blaine County strives to appoint the "best qualified personnel to county programs and policy boards," and that a number of candidates were interviewed for the BKHA position.
"After interviewing Ms. Egger, it was clear that she brings a great deal of experience in the area of getting affordable housing accomplished," the commissioners stated.
Egger has been the city administrator of Sun Valley for approximately one year. Previously, she served for eight years as the city manager of Telluride, Colo., where she was heavily involved in affordable housing issues.
Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson, who was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, said when the position on the BKHA board opened, Egger asked him if she could apply.
"I said fine, it's your time, that's volunteer work on behalf of your community," Thorson said. "Sun Valley has no stake in the (BKHA). The position of Sun Valley is we want a strong housing authority because workforce housing is one of the most critical issues before all jurisdictions."
And the county would be hard pressed to find a more qualified candidate, Thorson said.
"Her work for Sun Valley has been exemplary. I know Virginia very well, I know her resume exceedingly well, and I can't think of anyone better," Thorson said.
"There is nothing about her credentials to make me say anything to the county other than, 'Congratulations.'"
But concerns have spread to Ketchum, where City Councilman Baird Gourlay also believes the appointment "goes against the state statute."
Gourlay said "the legal opinion from the city attorney and an outside attorney is that if Sun Valley would join the BKHA, Virginia would have to step down" from her job as city administrator.
Gourlay said the city would not take legal action if Egger doesn't step down. He added that Egger is a "tremendous resource," and that Ketchum city officials are "just very confused" by the whole situation.
"There's been such a tremendous amount of momentum in the housing authority," Gourlay said. "There are either some personality clashes or they don't see eye to eye on where they should go. The funny thing is everyone wants affordable housing, and they're just tripping over the right way to get to that point."
Eagan said the resignation "has nothing to do with the personalities. It has everything to do with the principle."
But county commissioners aren't budging.
"(We) wish to recognize the work of the resigning BKHA board members. They leave years of groundwork to be built upon and added to in the future," their response states. "A heartfelt thank you to each of them for their years of service and we would also like to invite them to reconsider their resignations."
The commissioners concluded that they "look forward to a strong and continued partnership with the city of Ketchum and will work hard to foster a sense of partnership with the cities of Bellevue, Hailey and Sun Valley to support a successful and in the future, regional housing authority."
Egger could not be reached for comment.