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Members of the Little Rock housing authority board in a closed session Thursday chose three finalists for the agency's next leader.

All three of the finalists live out of state now, but have connections to Arkansas, said Leta Anthony, the chairman for the board of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance.

The agency is looking to fill the position left vacant by former executive director Rodney Forte, who resigned in November. Forte earned $133,000 annually.

Anthony said the finalists are Nadine Jarmon, the executive director for the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority in Florida; Kimberly Adams, a consultant at Quinn Development in Houston; and R.M. Jackson of Spartanburg, S.C.

Anthony did not provide further information about the finalists, and a state Freedom of Information Act request for their resumes was not fully answered Thursday.

Anthony said she interviewed the candidates via webcam and filled out questionnaires to review them. The documents included questions about what they wanted to do during their first 30 days on the job; why they wanted to move to Little Rock; how they worked with boards and commissions; and their experience with tax credits.

She said she was "ecstatic" about the candidates and was excited to close the search process.

"Little Rock would be lucky to have any one of them," commissioner Kenyon Lowe said after the closed meeting.

Anthony presented the review documents to the rest of the board during the private meeting.

Meetings of this type, called executive sessions, are allowed under certain circumstances by the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The law permits private meetings to discuss some personnel issues, for state licensing boards to prepare and administer exams, and for water and utility systems to discuss security.

The Freedom of Information Act states that all votes on resolutions and motions must take place in public in order to be legal.

Anthony said in a later interview that the decision made in the executive session wasn't an official vote, just a conversation among board members.

"This was just a conversation," she said. "Really it wasn't official. It wasn't a major piece. It was just a thing that was asked as we were walking through the door."

The three finalists were chosen from a pool of at least 22 candidates. The agency responded to a reporter's Freedom of Information Act request for all resumes, applications and the official job listing for the position with 70 pages of documents, but those did not include resumes for two of the top candidates named by Anthony in an interview after Thursday's meeting.

Jarmon's resume says she holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Central Arkansas, has a master's degree in business administration from the University of Houston, and a master's in public administration and a doctorate in urban and public affairs from the University of Texas.

She oversaw the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority during its transition of public housing to Section 8 under the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration. The Little Rock authority is in the midst of the same process.

Using newspaper archives, interviews with commissioners and professional websites, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette determined that Adams has a bachelor's degree in marketing from Southern University in Baton Rouge, a master's degree in business administration from Jackson State University in Mississippi, and a doctorate in urban planning and environmental policy from Texas Southern University.

She used to work as an assistant director for Little Rock's Department of Housing and Neighborhood Programs.

The newspaper was unable to obtain any further information about Jackson.

Anthony said the three finalists will be invited in to interview with the board and meet the housing authority staff in the coming weeks.

Commissioner Louis Jackson said in an interview that he anticipates hiring the South Carolina candidate.

"I'm leaning toward her," Jackson said. "I think she'll be the one that we get."

He added that although other candidates might not be "in the budget" for the authority, all were qualified.

"I don't see us going wrong with whichever one we get," he said.

The other two board members, Lee Lindsey and Monique Sanders, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

The board entered its executive session after the end of its regular agenda Thursday, moving to the fourth floor of the Metropolitan Housing Alliance building from its regular first-floor conference room setting.

When board members go into executive session, they generally stay on the first floor.

Board members returned from the closed meeting nearly an hour later with pizza and cookies in their hands, and Anthony announced that no action had been taken.

But when a reporter asked her after the meeting about finalists for the director's post, she listed the three candidates.

Before going into executive session, Anthony cited "personnel problems." In a later interview she said selecting the finalists didn't make up the meat of the session.

The housing authority commissioners often meet for long periods in executive session. In December, they met in private on a Saturday for 3½ hours. In February, they met for just over two hours. Both times, they cited personnel matters as the reason for secrecy.

The law says that personnel matters that can be discussed in executive session include employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of a public officer or employee.

Metro on 03/22/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock housing board picks top-job finalists in secret

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