Of the three finalists for the Little Rock housing authority's top position, one was fired by the city in 2018 and another has been terminated from at least two housing authorities.
R.M. Jackson, Kimberly Adams and Nadine Jarmon seek to fill a position left open when former Director Rodney Forte resigned from the Metropolitan Housing Alliance in November.
The alliance is a federally funded, locally controlled group that provides rental assistance to Little Rock residents with low incomes. The new executive director will lead the agency as it transitions its public housing to Section 8 through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.
The program allows public agencies to partner with private companies to revitalize aging housing stock. The new director will be hired by the five-member board of commissioners.
Chairman Leta Anthony said she interviewed candidates via webcam before making recommendations to the other commissioners based on score sheets. They selected the top three finalists in executive session earlier this month.
Each candidate will go in to meet the staff and interview with board members in the coming weeks, Anthony said earlier this month at a board of commissioners meeting for the housing authority.
Anthony did not return calls seeking comment on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's findings about the finalists.
Jackson, who last worked as the chief operations officer for the Spartanburg Housing Authority in South Carolina, has been fired from jobs at housing authorities in Louisiana and Illinois, court and agency documents show.
Jackson declined an interview request via email.
She worked at the St. James Parish Housing Authority in rural Louisiana from 1998 to 2000.
The authority had a "troubled designation" from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Jackson was hired to help turn it around, HUD documents show. But she was later fired with "charges of incompetence" and left the agency on the verge of shutting down, according to court documents.
The documents go on to say that HUD threatened to cut off federal funding if Jackson was not terminated and that other employees at the housing authority had complained about her performance.
She filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the agency, saying the firing was "without cause" and violated her contract. The suit said she wasn't given the chance to participate in the discussion at her termination hearing. She lost the lawsuit and an appeal.
Jackson was terminated again after two years in her executive director position with the Vermilion County Housing Authority. She worked there from June 2016 to June 2018.
Longview Bank and Trust sued the agency, and its entire board of commissioners resigned, according to online financial documents from the agency. New board members fired Jackson, telling a reporter at The News Gazette that it was because the authority was moving in "a new direction."
Jackson's next public housing job was at the Spartanburg authority, where she worked for one month in 2018. The agency now has an interim chief executive officer, according to its website.
A public records request for Jackson's personnel file was not returned by press time.
Jackson got a bachelor of arts degree at Rockhurt College in Kansas City, Mo. She also worked for the city of Hammond, La.; was a grants administrator and a relocation counselor in a voluntary property purchase program in Norco, La.; and was an infrastructure compliance analyst in Baton Rouge.
She has worked for at least three housing authorities, twice as executive director. According to her resume, she helped cut vacancies at the Illinois agency from 25 to 12 and increased rent collection from 60 percent of total checks to 93 percent.
Adams, a candidate from Houston, worked as an assistant director for the city of Little Rock's Housing and Neighborhood Programs from November 2017 to August 2018.
She left the job after a "disciplinary action you received in the form of termination of employment" for breach of confidence or security, insubordination, and conduct, according to a letter sent to Adams from City Manager Bruce Moore that was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
She appealed the decision, but it was upheld.
Adams was terminated after her supervisor left town and emailed Adams asking her to sign invoices. She signed only some of them, and said that was because they weren't in proper form and she didn't have enough evidence about the budget to approve the invoices, according to the letter from Moore.
The letter sent to Adams after her appeal says that her stated reasons "was not supported and even contradicted by the evidence submitted."
When she went in for her pre-termination hearing, Adams was told to leave her badge, city-issued electronic equipment and keys on the desk, but she did not, according to Moore's letter.
She later told a city employee that she didn't have an access card to the Willie L. Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center and got one although she was on administrative leave. She also kept two access cards to City Hall, which constituted a breach of security, according to Moore's letter.
Adams also bought 10 Surface Pro tablets for the department when she was instructed to buy six. When her supervisor told her to return the extra tablets, Adams didn't reply to his email and refused to give her tablet to another employee when instructed to, according to the letter from Moore.
Reached by phone, Adams declined to comment about her termination.
Adams also worked for the city of Houston as a staff analyst in the Housing and Community Development Department and as a grants analyst in the Department of Neighborhoods.
Her resume lists her as an "executive community developer," and she wrote that she is "adept at identifying underlying issues and implementing needs based solutions." She also spent a year as an adjunct professor.
Adams has a bachelor's degree in marketing from Southern University and Texas A&M. She has a master's in business administration from Jackson State University, and a doctorate in urban planning and environmental policy from Texas Southern University.
Asked by a reporter about her goals for the Little Rock housing authority if she were hired, Adams again declined to answer.
"I'd rather not comment at this particular time," she said.
Jarmon, the executive director at the Deerfield Beach Housing, said if she is hired she hopes to help the Little Rock authority grow and establish a close connection with city government.
Housing authorities are federally funded, but either top city or county officials appoint members to the boards of commissioners. In recent years, the Little Rock city government has rarely worked with the housing authority except when appointing new commissioners.
Jarmon said that at her current job, she administers Community Development Block Grants for the city and meets with city officials regularly.
"I think that the housing authority needs to be at the planning table with the city," Jarmon said.
She's also led her agency through two shifts of public housing to Section 8 through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. The program began under former President Barack Obama's administration and has expanded under President Donald Trump.
The Little Rock housing authority is in the throes of the same shift with its three towers, and plans to move forward with construction on Sunset Terrace, a 74-household site that allows families with children to stay.
Jarmon said she hopes to help the housing authority grow further through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program and will look for more opportunities in other areas as she learns more about the agency.
She added that she wants to move to Little Rock because she is from Conway, has family in the area and wants to work on affordable housing issues in the city.
"Little Rock is a dynamic city," Jarmon said. "It has a lot going on, and there's a lot of opportunities for growth in the housing authority."
Jarmon also has worked as a contracting consultant, a monitor and board adviser for the Gary Housing Authority in Indiana, the executive director of the Road Home Corp. dba Louisiana Land Trust, and the executive director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans.
She has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Central Arkansas, a master's 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.
SundayMonday on 03/31/2019
Print Headline: 2 people on short list to head Little Rock housing authority have firings in pasts, records show