Opinion: housing authority should avoid promoting from within


Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb (HACD) is losing its executive director, Shelly Perkins. This is an excellent development. It presents the HACD board with a fresh opportunity to address the unprofessional workplace culture there, by hiring an outsider and encouraging additional management departures.

Having observed HACD for about nine months and collected hundreds of records via Freedom of Information requests, I have catalogued the main ways HACD employees’ behavior is unacceptable and offered a couple examples of each.

Improper use of government resources. Ms. Perkins uses her work email account for personal business.




Refusal to follow proper channels and procedures. Here are links to articles about HACD’s clouting the North Sixth Street change, and not following the Open Meetings Act.

Sloppy recordkeeping. HACD often does not supply complete responses to Freedom of Information Requests — especially as concerns financial matters — and travel expenses are not documented properly.

Failures in interpersonal relations. I am blown away that a tenant with a Veterans Administration housing voucher was disputing that he owed HACD any money, and instead of sitting down with him to go over the numbers, HACD staff immediately began proceedings to terminate his participation in the program. Is this SOP?


HACD operations director Vivian Bright got caught in a “hot mic” moment with a member of the public following last month’s board meeting. (This pdf is two pages; page turner is at upper left.)


HACD staff got snide about Hope Haven.


Lack of professional boundaries. I have read a lot of HACD emails, and the pattern most definitely is about over-familiarity.

Ms. Perkins urged a subordinate to “bring your blue bikini.”


Ms. Bright was compelled to apologize to the mayor (who was, to be fair, only HACD’s IT guy at the time) for her “inappropriate gesture.”


Lastly, this letter from HACD’s attorney, to explain why requested information is not yet forthcoming, confirms that HACD is currently conducting an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against an HACD employee. (This is a multi-page document and the confirmation of investigation is on page 2.)


HACD personnel often act like laws unto themselves, and the record suggests it’s because key employees are complete assholes with little to no supervision. This is especially troubling when you consider that HACD’s business is people — especially those who are down on their luck, have special needs, or are otherwise vulnerable to abuses of power.

The HACD board should treat Ms. Perkins’ resignation as the first chapter in an organizational overhaul. If they can’t or won’t do it, DeKalb County, as the appointive body, should step up.

The complete collection of City Barbs housing authority posts is here.

Contact information is here.