Las Vegas’ housing authority loses two members ahead of vote

Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow announces his resignation during a press conference in council chambers at the City Hall on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Y. Barlow salutes after announcing his resignation during a press conference in council chambers at the City Hall on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
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The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority board of commissioners unexpectedly lost two of its nine members last month.

Commissioner Ricki Barlow gave up his housing authority seat on Jan. 22 when he resigned from the Las Vegas City Council. Barlow said he will plead guilty to felony fraud charges for misusing campaign funds in 2015.

On the same day, Cherryl Young, a public housing resident and commissioner representing Henderson, submitted her resignation. Young said she is moving to Atlanta.

Barlow and Young were both relatively new to the commission. Las Vegas City Council members appointed Barlow in July, and Young got the nod from the Henderson City Council in September.

Neither city council has discussed replacing them.

Meanwhile, the commission is slated to make two key votes on Thursday.

The agenda calls for commissioners to award a $12.5 million contract to B&H Construction to modernize the Espinoza Terrace public housing complex in Henderson. Commission Chairwoman Dora LaGrande said the vote must happen now because of rising construction costs.

“If we continue to wait, we won’t be able to afford to do the project,” she said.

Commissioners will also consider giving interim executive director Amparo Gamazo a 5 percent salary increase. The raise would be worth roughly $5,850 a year, according to 2017 payroll data provided by TransparentNevada.com.

The unexpected resignations came as the board began its third search for an executive director since April 2016, when John Hill left.

Deputy Executive Director Dwayne Alexander held the reins until his resignation in February 2017, when Gamazo, former director of modernization and development, began leading the agency.

Gamazo has said she doesn’t want to take the housing authority’s helm permanently. All the same, LaGrande said she’s doing a good job.

“While we’ve had an interim executive director, we’ve continued to meet all our housing authority goals, so we haven’t faltered in any of our compliance areas,” LaGrande said.

Since Hill’s departure, housing authority commissioners have offered his job to two applicants. Neither panned out.

In August 2016 commissioners voted to hire Montgomery Housing Authority executive director Evette Hester. Hester was offered a starting salary of $175,000, but commission meeting minutes show the deal fell through during further negotiations.

Roy Johnson, executive director of the Vancouver Housing Authority in Washington, signed a contract for the job the next April, but rescinded his acceptance because of a family member’s health.

In May, LaGrande decided to reset the process.

“We wanted to look at a fresh pool of applicants and make sure we selected someone who would be a good fit for the organization,” she said.

Applications are being accepted for the position through March 18. A job posting shows the starting salary could be as large as $179,000 plus benefits that include a $700-per-month car allowance.

Other vacancies

The housing authority is also deciding how best to permanently fill other top positions.

The departments of human resources, information technology and modernization and development all have interim directors. The deputy executive director position remains vacant.

“It is critical that these positions are filled,” Gamazo said.

Gamazo said the interim directors are also responsible for their regular duties, but have been able to balance the two workloads.

“That’s where the long hours and weekends come in,” she said.

Some relief may be on the horizon.

Gamazo said she has hired a new human resources director who will start Feb. 20. Further details on the hire were not available.

Once a new executive director is hired, Gamazo said she expects to return to her former position as modernization and development director. The new executive director will also hire their deputy.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Departure dates

Several key staff positions at the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority have remained vacant for a year or longer.

— Sharon Williams, last director of human resources, left in April 2015.

— Kenneth Wood, last director of information techonology, left in August 2015.

— John Hill, last executive director, left in April 2016.

— Dwayne Alexander, last deputy executive director, left in February 2017.

— Amparo Gamazo, last director of modernization and modernization and development, promoted to temporarily lead housing authority in February 2017.

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