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Monday, February 13, 2012

AHA investigation: Commissioners made offensive comments in front of employees

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  • AHA
Two Atlanta Housing Authority commissioners made offensive comments, including racial slurs, in front of agency employees late last year, according to an investigator's report obtained by CL over the weekend.

The outside investigation stems from AHA's employees' complaints after Commissioners James Allen Jr. and Wayne Jones visited the authority's downtown offices on Nov. 4, 2011. According to an investigator's 18-page report submitted to Mayor Kasim Reed in early December, the two commissioners concerned several unnamed AHA employees with comments about "pistol whip[ping]" a top executive and their job security, among others.

According to the report:

* Allen — who, according to the investigator, did not fully participate with the probe — made several references to AHA employees' job security and the top floor of the agency's headquarters where executive-level employees are located. The investigator said Allen, who is African American, told employees on the AHA's 6th floor that "If you haven't been stealing money, you have nothing to worry about, like those niggas upstairs." And before leaving that afternoon, investigators say Allen told a front-desk employee that she didn't have to worry about being fired — but the "niggas at the top do have to worry." Allen and Jones were among the commissioners who voted last year to require all the agency's hirings, firings, and demotions of employees to first be approved by the board.

* Allen was overheard saying he "couldn't stand" an unnamed AHA top executive and added: "Back in my day, it would have been nothing for me to pull out my .357 and pistol whip the shit out of" him.

* In an incident on the AHA building's 6th floor, Allen observed a female employee walk past, to which Jones replied, "I don't know what you're looking at that for, you can't do anything with her." Allen then, according to the investigator, pulled cash out of his pocket and said he "couldn't do anything with her, but could pay her to keep her happy."

Elarbee Thompson, an Atlanta law firm which represents the AHA and recommended the investigation, submitted the report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the mayor on Dec. 9. Reed's spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs said the mayor has seen the investigation, is still in the process of reviewing the report, and will take action shortly. (Both Allen and Jones are Reed appointees to the board of commissioners.)

"As I’m sure you’re aware, the past two months have been extraordinarily busy for Mayor Reed," Jacobs added when asked by CL via email why he hasn't responded to the report's findings. "He’ll take the time he needs to make an informed decision."

An AHA spokesman said the agency would have no comment on the matter. An effort to reach Allen and Jones through the AHA was also unsuccessful.

The probe into the two commissioners' behavior comes during a turbulent transition period at the agency, which provides affordable housing for people living on low incomes. In October, AHA CEO Renee Glover announced she would step down after nearly two decades of leading the agency — and finding herself in a contentious relationship with new AHA board commissioners appointed by the mayor.

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