New London housing board seeks to remove member, cites Facebook posts

New London — Citing bullying behavior and her use of social media to intimidate and criticize fellow commissioners, the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners took the first step this week in its attempt to remove Kathleen Mitchell from the five-member board.

In a 3-2 vote, the board agreed Wednesday to ask Mayor Michael Passero to remove Mitchell “for her conduct,” as allowed by state statute dictating removal of commission members. Board members are mayoral appointees.

Mitchell, at the meeting, asked “Can you be more specific?”

“No. Your behavior speaks for itself,” Gibson replied.

Gibson, Shannon Heap and Jeanette Parker voted in favor of recommending her removal. Mitchell and Stephanye Clark voted against. Clark subsequently submitted a letter of resignation, though her reasons are unclear.

Passero declined comment on whether he would push to remove Mitchell and said he had yet to receive the official notice or speak to Gibson about the matter.

Mitchell, who has been a lightning rod for controversy in her year and a half on the board, is the administrator for a community Facebook page called Whale Tales Two. The site has taken to questioning the motives of Gibson, Heap and Parker on Housing Authority matters. The posts are sometimes adorned with unflattering graphics or insults.

“It’s built up over time. Commissioner Mitchell became disruptive, a bully at meetings, used the social media to try and intimidate, bully board members (commissioners) and myself and put out inaccurate information,” Gibson said.

Gibson was referred to as a “maggot” in one post on Whale Tales Two.

“It became unacceptable conduct for a commissioner to behave in such a manner, which is why a majority of the board members have asked the mayor to remove her,” Gibson said.

The interactions between Mitchell and fellow board members has become increasing confrontational of late. Part of that appears to be linked to the firing of Executive Director Roy Boling and a recent push to invite offers from an outside management company to run the Housing Authority.

If Passero decides to remove her, Mitchell said she plans to take her case to a hearing and force the board to present evidence against her, as allowed by statute.

Mitchell said her frustrations over a lack of transparency, a disregard for proper procedure and a habit of excluding her and Clark from important board decisions have accumulated over time. She said Gibson has made it a habit of calling special meetings and posting them a day before the meeting and notifying board members of the agenda just before the meetings.

She said the recent decision to post a request for proposals from management companies for the Housing Authority is just one example. The board never reviewed the RFP or voted on it, she said.

As for the Facebook posts, Mitchell said she is not the lone contributor.

“If I post something about the commission, it’s usually straightforward. What I have posted personally on Whale Tales is generally something you might hear me say at a meeting,” she said.

“I hardly think Gibson is in any position to be accusing anybody, including Donald Duck, of putting out inaccurate information. She puts out very little information and the information she does give out is frequently flat-out lies,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she has been so disturbed by the “backdoor deals,” that she has sought outside counsel and plans to file a complaint with HUD’s Office of Inspector General.

Mitchell, who was appointed by Passero, said she has a genuine interest in improving the lives of the residents living in public housing and still wants to contribute.

“They equate questioning or asking for information that I’m entitled to (as) bullying and being uncivil,” Mitchell said. “Isn’t that part of being an active member of the board?”

It is not the first time Mitchell has stirred up controversy. Former Housing Authority Executive Director Sue Shontell named Mitchell in a complaint filed with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. The complaint alleged Mitchell bullied former housing board Chairwoman Tambria Moore into resigning.

g.smith@theday.com

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