Manchester Housing Authority Tenants Vent Anger At Executive Director [The Hartford Courant]
(Hartford Courant (CT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 17--MANCHESTER -- Tenants of the local housing authority crowded into a meeting Wednesday night to complain about the executive director and call for his ouster.
Mayor Leo Diana and members of the town board of directors also attended the meeting of the authority's board of commissioners at the West Hill Gardens complex on Ada Lane. The focus was on Executive Director Patrick Barder, whose three-year contract ends early next year. Besides tenant dissatisfaction, Barder also faces a complaint of inappropriate behavior from a federal housing official.
Although town leaders have no control over housing authority business, Diana said he came to support tenants after hearing about problems with safety and welfare and what tenants have told him is Barder's destruction of their community.
Tenants and relatives of tenants who spoke used terms such as "bullying" and "intimidating" to describe Barder, who was hired in early 2011.
"Mr. Barder, you're going to have to learn some kind of tact," Penny Dorsey, 70, of Case Drive said. Barder was at the meeting.
Barder was head administrator of the Terre Haute, Ind., housing authority for 25 years until late in 2007, when the authority's board decided not to renew his contract. Board members did not give any reasons for their decision, according to newspaper reports.
At Manchester Board of Directors meetings this year and last year, tenants complained about what they characterized as Barder's dictatorial manner. They charged then, and again Wednesday, that he cut down their beloved trees and shrubs with no notice and that he does not handle complaints about lack of heat, moldy basements and other issues in a timely manner.
Diana appointed some directors, including Cheri Pelletier, to look into the matter last year. Both Diana and Pelletier said before the meeting that many tenants have complained about Barder's disrespectful attitude.
Not all speakers on Wednesday night attacked Barder. Janet Metheny recalled that during a power failure last year, Barder spent the night at West Hill Gardens, walking the halls to check on tenants' welfare.
"He really cares for these people," Metheny said.
The housing authority was in financial disarray when Barder was named director, town officials have said. He was seen as a solid financial administrator, but according to some board of directors members and tenants, he lacks social skills and a sense of propriety.
In August, a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development official wrote to housing authority board Chairman Josh Howroyd about an incident earlier that month at a meeting attended by a female HUD official and Barder. Suzanne Piacentini, acting field office director for HUD in Hartford, wrote that Barder "made a lewd gesture toward his groin in disdain to the Department and the HUD employee."
"This behavior," Piacentini wrote, "has been preceded by prior inappropriate conduct towards HUD employees that involved inappropriate expressions of anger as well as comments and actions that may be interpreted to be patronizing or suggestive."
Shown a copy of the letter during a break in the meeting Wednesday, Barder said he had no comment. Asked about the tenants' complaints, he said, "It comes with the housing authority."
Barder's most strident critic Wednesday was tenant Richard Brown, who thundered on past his allotted speaking time to accuse Barder of ignoring safety hazards and maintenance requests and showing a disdain for tenants.
"We're not gonna take it anymore," Brown said.
(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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