In Wake of Scandals, More Scrutiny for Medford Housing Authority Board Appointment
Heather Merchant was approved by a 5-2 vote Tuesday.
As the Medford Housing Authority recovers from recent scandals, city councilors took more caution in approving a new member for the authority's board Tuesday.
Heather Merchant, of 15 Light Guard Drive was approved as the newest appointee to the Medford Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners by a 5-2 vote by the council Tuesday night. Merchant, a resident of federal housing development LaPrise Village, will be one of the board's resident representatives.
Merchant is a paraprofessional in Medford Public Schools and was selected by Mayor Michael McGlynn out of four applicants for the spot on the board. The approval is contingent on clearance by the State's Ethics Commission, since Merchant was appointed by McGlynn, who serves at the School Committee's chairman.
The housing authority's board is made up of five members and meets monthly to review the authority's budget and other administrative matters. The position Merchant will fill has been vacant for over a year. The applicants were reviewed by a three-person panel, which recommended Merchant to McGlynn.
Robert Penta and Breanna Lungo-Koehn, the two councilors who voted against the approval, wanted a closer review of the selection process in light of recent scandals at the housing authority. Penta wanted to wait until the council heard back from the ethics commission before voting on the appointment.
"We’ve had enough examples of what’s happened over at the housing authority," Penta said. "I just don’t want to add to it."
Luongo-Koehn said she wanted to review the applications of all four candidates before voting on a selection.
But, since the council is on a once-per-month meeting schedule for the summer, that would have meant waiting until August to review Merchant's appointment again.
The housing authority is in the process of picking a new board of directors, and not having the voice of a resident in that process would be "detrimental," City Councilor Paul Camuso said. He also commended Merchant for going for the job, despite the authority's recent scrutiny.
"I think its admirable of you," Camuso said. "Especially considering some of the recent news media."
Robert Covelle, the authority's former executive director, resigned in May following an audit report that raised issues over projects being handed out without being put out to bid first, and allegations that he hired close friends and family for jobs and contracts.
Councilor Rick Caraviello said he wanted to get approval from the ethics commission to prevent further issues.
"I don’t want to see Heather get thrown into something she doesn’t need to be,” he said.
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