New London housing authority member wants hearing to fight her possible removal
New London – A rare hearing is expected to be held later this month in which Mayor Michael Passero will consider the removal of a commission member he appointed.
Kathleen Mitchell, an opinionated and outspoken member of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, was targeted for removal by three of her fellow commissioners in November. The board cited her alleged bullying behavior and inflammatory comments on her Facebook page and voted 3-2 to ask Passero to remove her.
Mitchell does not plan to go quietly and called for a hearing to defend herself.
“The bottom line is I ask questions and they don’t want those questions to be asked,” Mitchell said. “If we were living in different times they would probably stuff me in a trunk and throw me off a bridge. I get a hearing instead.”
Mitchell plans to dispute the board’s allegation that she is a “disruptive and a combative presence … who has routinely taken positions adverse to her fellow board members seemingly only to cause conflict and division,” according to a summary of the complaints against Mitchell.
Connecticut State Statute 8-43 indicates a commissioner may be removed for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or misconduct in office ...” An attorney for the housing authority is expected to argue that Mitchell's conduct rises to the level of misconduct.
A hearing initially scheduled for Jan. 4 was delayed at Mitchell’s request. She does not yet have an attorney to represent her. A new date has not yet been set.
Mitchell claims the attempt to remove her is a reaction to her calls for better transparency and criticism of the board’s alignment with the agenda of the mayor’s office.
“There is a good reason why housing authorities are separate entities – to protect them from political agendas,” she said.
Certain commission members, Mitchell alleges, have also conducted business behind closed doors and brought predetermined decisions up for a vote. She points to a recent decision to fire former executive director Roy Boling and bring in the Connecticut-based a property management group, Imagineers LLC, to potentially manage the housing authority.
Mitchell insists that board Chairwoman Betsy Gibson and commissioner Shannon Heap met with the company after forming a search committee without her knowledge.
Gibson and Heap were not immediately available to comment Tuesday.
Passero said Tuesday that the housing authority was making good movement on its initiatives but “just can’t work with her,” in a reference to Mitchell. He said he would listen to both sides of the argument and make a decision on Mitchell’s removal after the hearing, seeking advice from the city attorney on whether the facts in the case meet the statute's grounds for removal.
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