Maricopa County Supervisors to Weigh Housing Authority Takeover

Acting at the suggestion of Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will explore the possibility of folding the Housing Authority of Maricopa County back under its control.

Wilcox confirmed to New Times that she has requested a policy discussion about the nature of the housing authority -- and what obligation county government might have to it. Both the chairman of the board, Don Stapley, and County Manager David Smith have agreed to begin the discussion, Wilcox said.

Wilcox didn't downplay rumors that she'd like to the see the county take back the independent agency, which is almost entirely funded by the federal government. "My druthers, if I could do it, would be to bring it back under county control," she told New Times earlier this week. "To me, it's the appropriate time."

For one thing, there would little chance for a turf war between the agency and the supervisors: the housing authority recently forced the resignation of its executive director of less than two years, Doug Lingner, after a New Times' cover story -- and subsequent report from attorney Kate Baker -- showed that Lingner had repeatedly flouted the agency's nepotism policy.

At that point, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began rifling through the agency's files, and were so concerned about their findings that they asked to address the board last month, before their review was even complete.

Finally, the housing authority's longtime chairman, Rick Cole, announced he would not seek reappointment when his term ends in June.

The housing authority used to be part of county government, but was spun off in 2004, partly to allow more "flexibility," Wilcox said.

"They said they could do more [as a stand-alone agency]," she said. "But I have not seen the housing authority do that. And I think it's time to bring it back to the county."

We'll keep you posted as these discussions play out.

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske