Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Housing Authority board announces its resignation

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter was addressed Feb. 27 to Blaine County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael.)


Dear Ms. Michael: I am writing to you today not only as Chairman of the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority (the "BKHA"), but also on behalf of my fellow commissioners. Regrettably, as a Board, we feel the County's appointment this week of a City of Sun Valley employee as a BKHA commissioner violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Idaho statutes enabling the creation of Housing Authorities.

Idaho law provides for the creation of both County Housing Authorities (I.C. §31-4201 et seq.) and City Housing Authorities (I.C.§50-1901 et. seq.). Importantly, both enabling statutes specifically limit the qualifications of commissioners as follows: "No commissioner of any authority may be an officer or employee of the county (city) for which the authority is created." I.C. §31-4210 (§50-1910). Clearly the intent of the legislators in enabling the formation of housing authorities in Idaho is that such authorities would be independent from the municipal organization which created it. Indeed, I.C. §31-4204 provides that a "housing authority shall constitute an independent public body corporate and politic ... " (emphasis added).

While the City of Sun Valley is not technically a "... city for which the authority (was) created," as we all know, Sun Valley has publicly and vocally made its intentions to have a seat on the BKHA board known. Moreover, Sun Valley's pledge to fund a significant portion of the needs assessment study has given it a financial stake in the goings on of the board and its appointment over a year ago of a liaison to the board has certainly given it very real political stake in the authority's monthly proceedings. We feel that this appointment, while not technically a violation of I.C. §31-4210, is at best a disingenuous attempt to exploit a loophole in the statute which rises in instances where a city exercises its right to have a housing authority through a county housing authority, thus clearly contravening the spirit of the legislation.

As you are well aware, this Board has consistently and unanimously opposed the appointment of any City or County officer or employee as a BKHA Commissioner. This Board was intended to be a board of citizen commissioners, not public employees. The rationale behind this separation of state and citizenry is sound. As you are no doubt aware, the BKHA does not even have an executed Contract for Services with the City of Sun Valley nor do we have an agreement in place dealing with the structure and fee arrangement for the soon to be transferred affordable housing units at Elkhom Springs. How a staff member of the City of Sun Valley could in good faith negotiate with the BKHA under this context is a mystery to this Board

Clearly, your vision and direction for the BKHA and that of the current Board are at odds. We do not feel that politicizing the Board in this manner is in the long term best interests of the mission of the BKHA and community housing in general.

In light of this obvious disparity in vision, we feel it best to tender our resignations effective March 1, 2006. It is not our intention to stand in the way of your reconstituting the board in a manner that best reflects the County's and its included Cities' vision of a more politically palatable housing authority. However the undersigned, in good conscience, can not be a party to that process.

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