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Spate of resignations prevents Merced County Housing Authority from meeting

Four Merced County Housing Authority commissioners have resigned, leaving the board unable to hold meetings once again because of a lack of participation.

The seven-seat commission had to forgo its Tuesday night meeting because there weren't enough members to conduct the authority's business.

The authority is charged with managing the county's stock of low-income housing units. Members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors and report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Margaret Pia and Jose Delgadillo, both appointed in August, are the remaining active members of the Housing Authority.

Mary Stillahn, Charles Reyburn, Karen Henderson and Delia Garibay all submitted letters of resignation within the past two months.

All, except for Garibay's, were effective immediately. Garibay will depart next week.

The resignations follow a grand jury report released in the summer that recommended removal of anyone who worked at the Housing Authority or had ties to Firm Build.

That suggestion targeted Stillahn, Reyburn and Patrick Bowman.

Delgadillo was on the grand jury that investigated the Housing Authority and Firm Build.

Stillahn didn't return phone calls for comment. She issued a terse resignation letter that gave no explanations.

Reyburn was unable to be reached for comment. "While I take great pride in being part of the accomplishments at the agency," he wrote to Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Deidre Kelsey, "I find that I am no longer able to provide the necessary effective and meaningful oversight required of this position."

Bowman has been suspended from serving, pending the outcome of the criminal case against him.

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

The case has yet to go to trial.

The Housing Authority board won't be able to meet until the Board of Supervisors appoints another commissioner.

County spokeswoman Katie Albertson said it will be taken up by supervisors early next year.

"We're going to try to tackle it as quick as possible while still giving folks a chance to apply," she said Tuesday.

The board was unable to meet several times in the fall after Bowman was suspended because there were two other vacancies, plus one member couldn't make several meetings. A quorum, or four commissioners, needs to be present to hold a meeting.

Henderson blamed the imbalance of power between tenants and the authority as her reason to depart. She wrote that she couldn't effectively serve anymore.

Garibay wrote she would have a hard time attending future meetings because of "positive changes" in her personal life.

Reporter Scott Jason can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.

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