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EDITORIAL: Editorial: Best intentions still governed by the rules [The Lebanon Democrat, Tenn. :: ]
[March 08, 2014]

EDITORIAL: Editorial: Best intentions still governed by the rules [The Lebanon Democrat, Tenn. :: ]

(Lebanon Democrat, The (TN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 08--Lebanon Housing Authority Bill Durham's departure from the board of directors should serve as a warning to anyone who seeks to break the rules even with the most honorable of intentions.

Durham resigned from the board of directors Thursday following a recent incident where he gave a 35-year-old homeless woman a place to stay at Hillcrest Homes, which is public housing for disabled people.

At Lebanon Housing Authority's meeting Thursday, executive director Patrick Johnson said as a result of the incident with Durham he felt the board handled the situation well.

"The housing authority took due diligence to make sure the issue was resolved in the right way," Johnson said.

Following reports of the incident, Johnson said he received a call from the Housing and Urban Development's Nashville field office. He said he answered with a three-page response detailing what happened and the steps taken.

Johnson said he then received a response from HUD that said it was pleased with actions the housing authority took in response to the incident.

Johnson also explained he would present board orientation packets at next month's meeting in an effort to reiterate and outline roles and responsibilities for board members.

The incident in question happened last month when, according to a Lebanon police report, Jennifer Marie Turner was found living at 17 Hillcrest Homes on Feb. 5. The report also said the leaseholder couldn't be found, and none of the leaseholder's property was found.

Durham said the leaseholder was a 58-year-old man who had "a couple of strokes." When the leaseholder decided to take a trip to Pittsburgh, Durham gave his unit at Hillcrest Homes to Turner.

But when Durham stopped paying rent on 17 Hillcrest Homes after the leaseholder decided to remain in Pittsburgh and Turner was evicted after she was found living there, it raised some questions with Johnson.

"We cannot sublet the units," Johnson said. "Bill should not have taken it upon himself to do that. Period. He's all caught up in trying to help someone, but you can't do that. I have federal policies I have to abide by.

"You cannot let homeless people stay in public housing. Period. They have to apply just like anyone else." Durham said he met Turner while he was working as a volunteer with Compassionate Hands, a local ministry of churches that helps feed and shelter homeless people during the winter months.

Durham said the leaseholder was aware Turner was staying in the unit at the time.

We believe Durham had good intentions when he made his decision, but there are hundreds of people in public housing in Lebanon that could have also been homeless if HUD officials had not been so understanding. Durham has hopefully learned his lesson through this case and made a wise decision to step down.

Johnson should also be commended for his work to right this wrong and educate the board on best practices.

___ (c)2014 The Lebanon Democrat, Tenn.

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