- Written by Administrator
- Published: 11 April 2012
Infighting, charges of rumormongering and complaints about board members have come to a head on the Duxbury Housing Authority Board. All came to a head at a the Monday morning meeting when the executive director resigned and a newly elected board member brought legal counsel.
The six-member board, composed of four elected members, one appointed by the state, and an executive director hired 10 years ago by the then board has been beset with discord for nearly a year according to several members. At the heart of the issue are allegations made by Alden Ringquist that executive director Linda Bacci’s demeanor toward the elderly public housing tenants is disrespectful. It’s an accusation Bacci met head on.
In a March 29 letter addressed to the then-chair of the committee Linda Garrity, Bacci wrote that Ringquist, “… has been spreading inaccurate rumors around town regarding my work ethic and responsibilities as the Director of the Housing Authority.” Bacci went on to request in the letter that the board address her concerns at their regularly scheduled April 9 meeting and threatened to “… take further action if this matter is not dealt with swiftly and in a satisfactory manner.”
“I’ve never said anything outside that I haven’t said at the meetings,” said Ringquist, 80. “I haven’t called her any names.”
A subsequent letter was then sent by Garrity to Ringquist on April 2 in her capacity as chair of the committee, notifying him the matter would be discussed in Executive Session at the April 9 meeting. An executive session is not open to the public. In her letter to Ringquist, which was not shared with other members according to Ringquist, newly-elected member Michael Thorp and 12-year member Brendan Keohan, Garrity wrote the DHA had scheduled a meeting “ ‘to discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the complaints or charges brought against a public office’. The Board intends to address complaints about you.”
At the April 9 meeting, Ringquist brought Attorney Philip Markella with him, as suggested in Garrity’s letter, and requested that all matters be discussed in open meeting so that the public would be allowed full transparency. Garrity said that the Housing Authority’s counsel was unable to attend the meeting on such short notice and the board moved to discuss the matter at a future date when all parties were represented. Later in the meeting, it was decided by the board that Garrity, Bacci and Ringquist would meet privately instead.
Yet Bacci made an announcement during the meeting that may make the entire issue moot: she is resigning effective June 30.
“I want to set the record straight,” said Bacci, after handing out a lengthy list of her accomplishments during her 10-year tenure. “I’m not retiring because of the new members of the board, I’ve been hearing rumors about what they say. I have three members of the board who would renew my contract. I don’t play games.”
The DHA is a partnership between the town and state, whereby four members from the town are elected to the board and one is appointed by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED) which oversees all aspects of the administration of the DHA. Multiple calls to the DHED’s general counsel seeking comment were not returned. A call to the main line went unanswered by the operator. The DHA is responsible for 59 units at 59 Chestnut St., two special needs homes, a duplex on Chestnut Street, two family homes and three apartments on Bay Road according to Garrity and Bacci.
Elected to the Housing Authority last year, Ringquist is on the board of the Friends of the Council on Aging (COA) and is a volunteer with Meals on Wheels. He said he started hearing complaints from residents in his capacity as a COA volunteer before he ran for the Housing Authority. As a result, he began meeting with tenants each Sunday for coffee at the Chestnut Street property and then ran for the Authority to address their concerns.
“Most of the people up there are very poor,” said Ringquist of the residents of the Chestnut Street public housing. “They make only a couple hundred dollars a month. I don’t think Linda Bacci has much compassion for seniors. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s does a great job, she just doesn’t have the people skills. When you’re elected by the town, you have a responsibility to the town. The people living there are residents of the town and I have a responsibility to them.”
Residents of the Chestnut Street property, John McLellan and Richard Gallagher supported Ringquist’s allegations against Bacci.
“Alden got a floodlight fixed for me,” said McLellan, claiming it had been out for six months before that. “I was told to use another doorway because it was dark… I wouldn’t want my mother to be treated the way [Bacci] treats people.”
Gallagher had even harsher words for the executive director. Richard Gallagher, 74, said he’s a longtime resident of Duxbury and handicapped by rheumatoid arthritis. He said he moved in four years ago, but once his hip and legs made it difficult to climb to his second story apartment, he put in a request to Bacci for a first floor unit.
“She gave me a tremendous hassle,” said Gallagher. “She said I was a deceitful person. I said I would love to be better, but she wouldn’t hear of it… If she was a guy, I would have knocked her on her butt.”
But not all residents believe Bacci is the problem. After the meeting, Carol Greger was quick to jump to Bacci’s defense.
“This is the cleanest and so well run and comfortable,” said Greger. “I waited quite a while to get in here.”
Garrity has a different perspective about the dispute within the board. A supporter of Bacci’s, she was on the search committee that hired her as executive director. She said during her 12 years on the board, there had never been any issue until Ringquist was elected.
“That person came on the board without asking anyone how things are done,” said Garrity. When asked to whom she was referring, she said Rinq, using Alden Ringquist’s nickname.
Brendan Keohan, who was elected the new chair of the Housing Authority at that meeting, said in fairness to Bacci, it’s a difficult job and that there are often disgruntled tenants. Like Garrity, he voted to hire her. Over his 12 years on the board, he’s heard numerous complaints about Bacci and in an effort to allow for transparency, he’s brought them to the board’s attention by making them agenda items at meetings.
“We never had any evidence to substantiate the claims,” said Keohan. “I don’t think you can fire someone for having the wrong tone. I don’t know what the protocol is for addressing that.”
While no one claims that there was mismanagement at the Housing Authority, Garrity said the real issue is a clash of personalities.
“It was about her personality,” said Garrity referring to Ringquist’s concerns about Bacci. “What am I supposed to do, send her to counseling? I’m a board member. I think it’s just small town crap.”
Ringquist disagrees. He said it isn’t about him or the board, he said it’s about respecting a vulnerable population that is elderly, poor, and often times in poor health.
Said Ringquist, “I think these people deserve a lot more than they’ve been getting.”