In the midst of several allegations and controversy surrounding the Yazoo City Housing Authority, new director Alpreston Billings said she is “overwhelmed” with questions she said should be directed to the former board commissioners and executive director.
During a special call meeting of the Housing Authority last week, Billings said she cannot make a smooth transition and get down to the business at hand because she is bombarded with numerous requests for the actions and financial operations of the previous administration.
Billings told the new Housing Authority Board, which consists of previous commissioners Danny Neely and Mamie Williams and new commissioners Veronica Starling, Carolyn Johnson and Herbert Scott Jr., she will no longer entertain questions for anything that transpired up to August of 2018.
“I cannot move forward with my day to day operation with my staff and residents because there is a lot of chaos and confusion,” Billings said. “I am overwhelmed with phone calls, all kinds of things that have been said and going on. I need to get my staff back focused on what they need to do in this transition we are going thru.”
Billings assumed the role of executive director after former director Betty Reed retired last June. Since she took on leadership of the Housing Authority, Billings said the majority of her time is spent dealing with actions made by the previous leaders.
Along with Reed’s retirement, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen removed commissioner John Meeks, Dawn Gainwell-Dodd and Richard Griffin from the Housing Authority board. Over the past several months, there have been several inquiries made in relation to the previous leaders’ record keeping, board minute documentations, credit card charges and financial transactions.
“I feel like it is unfair to me that this (Housing Authority) board has to come to me and ask me questions for things that transpired a year ago,” she said. “Mrs. Reed was here until the end of June 2018. Issues in 2017 should be addressed with (her) and the (previous) board.”
Billings said her transition has been “chaotic,” particularly since the Housing Authority prepares to close on a multi-million-dollar Rental Assistance Demonstration program, which will renovate close to 300 units within the community.
“Believe it or not, without the help of my staff, this transition is not easy,” Billings said. “We are about to start relocating these families. They are moving around. It is going to be chaotic. I have to make to sure my staff is in place and focused. Right now, I can’t focus. I have all kinds of people calling me. Any issue that this board has, please address to the former commissioners and the previous executive director.”
The RAD project began in 2012, and Billings said she would like to move forward with seeing the project come into fruition.
“I want things to clear up so we can get down to business,” Billings said. “It is a lot we have left to do. It is a lot with closing this RAD deal. I have too much chaos After today’s meeting, I am not expecting next board meeting to address issues or concerns about previous things. We have to move forward as a board. We won’t get anything done. These past couple of board meetings, it is the same thing…credit cards, open minutes…”
Billings said the Yazoo City Housing Authority was one of the first agencies in the state to participate in the RAD program.
“This Housing Authority has been made a mockery out of,” Billings said. “This is a very prestige Housing Authority in the state of Mississippi. It has been drug through the mud. It has to stop. Let’s commit to be about creating affordable housing in this community. The mess has to stop. My family and I are the ones being impacted here. I have to take this home.”
Reed added that she has worked with Reed for two decades as part of the Housing Authority agency.
“I have worked my behind off to be where I am,” Billings said. “I should not have to go through this.”