Mayor moves to change leadership at troubled housing authority
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa moved Thursday to replace a majority of the members of the housing authority’s board of directors, just as the agency has come under scrutiny from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department's inspector general and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
Villaraigosa nominated attorney Dennis Hernandez, attorney Mitchell Kamin, public affairs director Kimberly Freeman and Isabel Ayala, a resident of the Ramona Gardens housing project, to serve on the seven-member board.
Former board President Beatriz Stotzer, who is the subject of the district attorney’s inquiry, resigned last week. Board member Ray Mathoda stepped down Monday. Two other board members, Tunua Thrash and Maria del Angel, saw their terms as commissioners expire the same day.
Their departures come at a tumultuous time for the agency. In March, the board fired the agency's chief executive officer, Rudolf Montiel, saying they had lost confidence in his judgment. He had earlier earned the wrath of City Council members after the agency moved to evict nine tenants who demonstrated outside Montiel's Rancho Cucamonga home. The evictions were later rescinded.
Montiel in turn said his firing had an "air of retribution" because he had recently asked commissioners to return thousands of dollars in luxury travel and restaurant expenses billed to the agency.
Then, last month, the district attorney’s office opened an inquiry into whether Stotzer violated conflict-of-interest laws as part of her private work for a company that manages affordable housing developments.
In a statement, Villaraigosa said he was grateful for the departing commissioners' service but looked forward to the contributions of the new members.
Ayala, a resident of Ramona Gardens since 1961, is a mother of eight and the mayor called her "a tireless advocate for social programs."
Freeman is the director of community relations for the Southern California Gas Co.; Hernandez is a lawyer with the firm of Luna & Glushon; and Kamin, a former head of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, is now a principal at the law firm Bird, Marella.
"Los Angeles is home to thousands of public housing residents and maintaining a high quality of life for all our residents is of paramount priority," the mayor said in a statement.
--Jessica Garrison and David Zahniser