February 3, 2010

Merced County Housing Authority still playing catch-up to fill board seats

The Merced County Board of Supervisors is looking for applications to the county's housing authority, which has been struggling to conduct business because of a lack of members.

The supervisors appointed two new members last week, but there are still two at-large openings. Two more spots will become vacant Feb. 18, when those terms expire.

In December, county supervisors Jerry O'Banion and Hub Walsh took emergency appointments on the board, which no longer had enough members to conduct end-of-the-year business. Last week, the supervisors appointed Evelyn Dorsey and Jose Resendez Jr., as tenant members to the board. O'Banion and Walsh announced they'd resign from their spots.

The Board of Supervisors appoints members to the housing authority, but the county has no role in the authority's daily work, which reports to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The housing authority was sent into a whirlwind last summer, after a civil grand jury report recommended the removal of anyone who worked at the housing authority or had ties to Firm Build, specifically Mary Stillahn, Charles Reyburn and Patrick Bowman.

Firm Build is a local nonprofit that went bankrupt, leaving projects unfinished and bills unpaid. An investigation by the Merced County District Attorney's Office led to seven felony charges being filed against Bowman, including diversion of construction funds, embezzlement, falsified corporate records and criminal conflict of interest.

Karen Henderson and Delia Garibay also resigned, citing other reasons for their departures.

The two remaining commissioners -- Margaret Pia and Jose Delgadillo -- were appointed in August.

Delgadillo holds one of the two terms that are set to expire. The other soon-to-expire term belongs to Bowman, who has been suspended from the board.

Applicants for the housing authority must complete an application, questionnaire and public interview process. Interested applicants should contact the board clerk, at (209) 385-7366 to receive an application and the questionnaire, or visit the county Web site at www.co.merced.ca.us/bcc.

Applications are due to the clerk by Feb. 10 to be considered for interviews. Interviews will be held at a board of supervisors meeting.

Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

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