Hoboken Housing Authority Chief Financial Officer Emil Kotherithara will serve as the agency’s acting executive director until the search for a permanent replacement is complete. At its monthly meeting this past Thursday, the HHA Board of Commissioners elected to tap Kotherithara rather than extend the expiring contract of current interim director Robert DiVincent on a month-to-month basis.
According to HHA Board Chairwoman Dana Wefer, Kotherithara’s appointment is conditional upon his credentials being approved by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The new title comes with an unspecified increase in compensation.
The resolution assigning the responsibilities of acting director to Kotherithara for up to 75 days was approved with six affirmative votes. Commissioner David Dening abstained.
According to Wefer, the housing board has already interviewed six candidates for the permanent director position and will interview more, followed by a probable second round of interviews. She said she hoped the process would be complete in three months.
“We really needed someone down at the Housing Authority who was going to be there 40 hours a week.”—Dana Wefer
After his firing, Garcia filed suit against Wefer, the HHA, the city of Hoboken, and Mayor Dawn Zimmer, alleging that they had formed a criminal conspiracy against him. Garcia is an outgoing state assemblyman and has been a political opponent of Zimmer for years.
The HHA Board held a closed session on Thursday to discuss the ongoing litigation.
The HHA executive director is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of roughly 1,300 units of low income housing in Hoboken. He or she is overseen by the volunteer Board of Commissioners and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
DiVincent proud of his work
Director DiVincent had offered to stay on until a permanent replacement was found, but he said he is satisfied with the work he has done to turn the Authority around since Garcia’s departure.
“I think we’re on a path to bringing you to where you really deserve to be,” he said to the two dozen HHA residents assembled on Thursday. “You’re financially in a better grounding than you were 12 months ago.”
Among the accomplishments that made DiVincent the most proud were installing six of the electricity generators that had been sitting in a project parking lot for a year and a half.
The HHA also moved to fix electronic door locks that were knocked out by Sandy. He said the locks should be fully fixed by Sept. 1.
Even as he left, DiVincent said he had filed a request to raise the maximum rent covered by HUD Section 8 vouchers in Hoboken to 120 percent of the Fair Market Rent given for the area. Allowing people to cover more of the rent using their vouchers “will allow those people living in Hoboken to stay in Hoboken for at least an extended period of time.”
While she was gracious to DiVincent for his service, Wefer said it was time to have an interim director who could fully focus on Hoboken. DiVincent is also the executive director of the West New York and Weehawken housing authorities.
“We really needed someone down at the Housing Authority who was going to be there 40 hours a week,” she said. “If they’re not, unfortunately it gets reflected.”
“I think we devoted whatever was necessary,” said DiVincent after the meeting. “Sometimes it wasn’t the attention they would have liked to have been devoted, but if you look at what we accomplished, you can see that we devoted the necessary time.”
This was the second time DiVincent stepped in as interim director of the HHA after the firing of a controversial director. He previously served from 2004 to 2009, until Garcia, then his deputy director, took over.
Carlo Davis may be reached at email@example.com.