In a marathon meeting this afternoon that stretched close to four hours, commissioners for the Housing Authority of Maricopa County agreed to accept the resignation of executive director Doug Lingner, effective today.
In exchange for agreeing to resign, and promising not to sue the board unless they sue him first, Lingner will receive three months' severance.
That's the size of the initial severance agreement that Lingner rejected two weeks ago, claiming that he'd been defamed and demanding six months' pay instead.
But Lingner was clearly wise to give in when he did. Today's meeting included a blistering oral report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- and after hearing its findings, the commissioners were in no mood to negotiate.
In fact, they appeared to be close to rejecting the severance and instead firing Lingner outright.
That charge was led by board members Jeff McIntyre and Courtney Levinus. Levinus said she felt that three months' pay was excessive, especially in light of Lingner's brief tenure. (He served as director of the agency for just one and a half years before he was put on paid leave, thanks to revelations in a New Times' cover story.)
And several commissioners, particularly McIntyre, bridled at the fact that Lingner was being paid any severance at all in light of the scathing HUD report.
McIntyre, who is originally from New Zealand, called Lingner's severance demands "cheeky." McIntyre ultimately refused to vote "yes" on the agreement, abstaining to "send a message that we've been backed into a corner by the litigious nature of society."
He said, "Considering what we listened to today, it really sticks in my craw."
Commissioner Mickey Lund agreed: "I'm torn on it, only because of the things we heard today."
In a presentation to the board, HUD's Barbara Gallegos explained that her staff has been on site for three weeks. Even though its written report won't be complete for more than a month, she wanted to address the board today "because of the number of items we are identifying and the scope and breadth of the review."
Gallegos than proceeded to detail dozens of ways in which the housing authority is in violation of federal rules. She noted that her staff had found poor record keeping, an "overall lack of documentation" in both employee personnel files and vendor files, a lack of checks and balances, a failure to follow procurement policy, and an "overall lack of internal controls."
While Gallegos didn't get into specifics or assign blame, she did note that use of the agency's credit card skyrocketed roughly a year and a half ago, with (again) "a lack of internal controls."
"The credit card was being used for meals, which are eligible if they're tied to a specific training session or meeting where technical information is displayed," she said. "Based on the receipts we're seeing, the receipts don't tell us that. In many cases, there are no receipts."
New Times identified Lingner's credit card use as a potential problem in our February cover story. We also detailed problems with procurement, which Gallegos concurred with in her presentation.
At one point in the meeting, in fact, employees stated that the original construction contracts supervised by Lingner -- in which firms that supported him when he was a city councilman were selected for a majority of the work -- have been canceled. The agency has since begun soliciting for new contractors.
We'll have more on HUD's findings in our print edition next week.