Bricker lashes out at council over BCHA inaction

 

Outgoing Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker lashed out at his fellow councilmembers for their lack of progress on his decision to oust three members of the Bay City Housing Authority.

After Monday’s hearing to dismiss the case filed against him by the authority members was denied by visiting Judge Randy Clapp, Bricker posted on his Facebook page comments concerning council’s decision to remove the three members of the BC Housing Authority.

Bricker said a lot of false information has been released to the public concerning his decision to remove the housing board commissioners.

“As disappointed as I have been in these false statements, I have remained hopeful that the issue would be resolved by city council ratifying the removals,” Bricker said. “In a letter addressed to commissioners, HUD states their hiring of legal counsel did not follow their procedures, their lawsuit filed failed to get the required prior approval of HUD regional counsel, and that money spent on the lawsuit was not allowed and would have to be returned to the federal accounts. 

“When I sent this to city council, I felt confident that it articulated infractions and supported our argument that PHA money could not be spent to benefit individuals. Regardless of this, three times council has yet to confirm or deny the removals,” Bricker said. “At this point, I feel I have done all I can do to protect the well being of the BCHA, it now falls solely in city council’s hands. I strongly feel it’s our responsibility as elected officials to address issues head on and not kick them down the road. I remain hopeful that action will happen and allow the city and HUD to begin discussing a path forward.”

The issue has been ongoing for several months now, as Bricker has attempted three different occasions to remove the three members of the authority. The three members then filed a lawsuit preventing Bricker from removing them from the Bay City housing authority.

During last Thursday’s council meeting, Bricker had placed two items on the agenda to discuss the removal of the three members and the replacement with three different candidates. Council broke into executive session for more than an hour but when they returned didn’t take any action on the issues that have been at the city’s forefront for months now.

“They just don’t want to make a decision before the election,” Bricker said. “They don’t want to create any enemies before the election so they won’t make a decision. They could come back and reject the agenda item calling for the dismissal of the three but they won’t even do that.” 

During Monday’s hearing, the defendants’ attorney Andy Taylor stated the issue might become a moot point once brick or leaves office and a new mayor is elected in May.

The lawsuit was originally filed against Bricker dealing with his effort to remove Ronny Reeves, Vidala Leal Rodas, Danyal Manning from the Bay City Housing Authority board. It alleges the decision was unlawful and denied the board members due process.

The lawsuit stems from Bricker’s removal of Manning from her position with the board Dec. 14. Commissioner Ronnie Reeves was also removed from the commission on the grounds of “inefficiency.”

In documents obtained from the city of Bay City, Mayor Mark Bricker removed Manning from the Bay City Housing Authority after Manning failed to resign from the post by Friday’s date. 

According to the lawsuit, “Mayor Bricker is assuming the role of a judge when he conducts an evidentiary hearing on removal. It’s improper for him to preside over a removal hearing when he is a fact witness to the very allegation that he finds in support of grounds for removal. Plaintiffs request the right to take Mayor Bricker’s sworn deposition to disprove his false factual accusations and further requests the court require a substitute fact-finder such as the Mayor Pro-Tem to conduct the due process removal hearing.”

Visiting District Judge Randy Clapp ruled in favor of Reeves, Leal Rodas, Manning and the Bay City Housing Authority in its temporary injunction hearing held Thursday, Feb. 7 in the 130th District Court.

Clapp ruled that Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker has the right to remove and appoint commissioners to the authority but he also needs to gain ratification of the move from city council.

In Bricker’s attempt to remove Manning from her commissioner’s chairman post, council has yet to ratify the decision.

Reeves, Rodas and Manning are to remain serving on the board. 

“(Bricker) and city council have no authority to tell them how to run the authority,” Clapp said. 

During closing arguments, the plaintiff’s attorney Andy Taylor argued that Bricker has “yet to get it done” in his attempts to gain council’s approval of his decisions to remove Manning from the Bay City Houston Authority.

“He went after it once and twice and he can’t get it done,” Taylor said. “He just doesn’t have the political power to get it done. The mayor is not a dictator. He can’t make decisions that deny due process of the law.”

“Over the last year, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has contacted my office asking for my plan to address the complaints and concerns they had with the Housing Authority,” Bricker said. “Issues involved commissioners micromanaging housing authority staff, inquiring confidential information of tenants and landlords, not responding to open records requests from the Tribune, and a formal complaint over BCHA procurement procedures. Even I witnessed the three commissioners violate the Texas Open Meetings Act, meeting outside of a publicly posted meeting.

“I am responsible for the proper administration of the City’s affairs and for appointments and removals of the BCHA Board,” Bricker stated. “After inquiring with HUD and the City Attorney about the process for removals, it was confirmed by both it was the Mayors sole authority, and would have to notify and hold a 10 day removal hearing.”

Bricker said he originally had hoped the chaos with the Housing Authority would ease with time but he later learned it had been allegedly raised to a new level.

“Upon hearing a complaint that standing commissioner made a remark that she was “packing and always packing” a weapon, in efforts to intimidate BCHA employees, I felt they had crossed the line of no return,” Bricker said. “As I began the removal process, I was met with a malicious attack on my character from the remaining three commissioners along with a false narrative describing unfounded reasons for their removal. In December it was stated that I have attempted to remove them because of race, sex, and ego. A month later, it was claimed in court that I was attempting to remove them to silence their investigation into fraud. Just last week, a commissioner stated, because I wasn’t running for mayor, I was working to consolidate the BCHA with another Public Housing Authority (PHA) because I wanted to be the director of the PHA.”

Bricker presented a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Director Lorraine Walls concerning the Bay City Housing Authority use of funds to hire an attorney with the lawsuit against Bricker. 

The letter states “BCHA must report litigation, or threatened litigation to Bill Daley, Southwest Regional Counsel and submit documents and information to allow the regional counsel to follow the case. The BCHA may not initiate litigation without concurrence from the regional counsel and may not undertake defensive litigation without the regional counsel’s approval of expenditure of program funds. The regional counsel will not approve expenditure of program funds for a PHA’s defense if he finds that the PHA has clearly violated HUD requirements, or is otherwise at fault. Furthermore, not HUD funds may be used for defense of you, as an individual, or any other defendants named in the suit…As per guidelines, HUD funds should be restored to the appropriate federal accounts.”

Bricker also presented an email sent from Taylor, the commissioner’s attorney in the lawsuit, to Chris Kinnear with HUD. In Kinnear’s response to Taylor, he states, “You nor the PHA have yet to receive approval to file affirmative litigation. Next, litigation brought by individual board members is not considered an expense for the HUD program. Any HUD funds, paid to you must be returned. HUD has no say where board members pay with their own funds.”

Attempts were made to contact Bay City councilmembers but were not returned as of press time.

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