Update: The Peekskill Housing Authority Board of Directors released a statement regarding the vote not to renew Phipps contract on June 24.
“The Board has asked Mr. Phipps to stay on board until a new Executive Director has been selected. The PHA Board has hired a professional search firm to conduct the search,” PHA Chair Ron Abad said.
The Peekskill Housing Authority Board of Directors voted against renewing its Director Harold Phipps’ yearly contract last week. The vote was four to one against the renewal, according to the PHA board.
Phipps started as the PHA Director on July 5, 2009 and his contract was renewed for another year in September, 2010. He has been one of many subjects and by the Committee for Justice, run by social activist Darrell Davis of Mount Vernon and the Cortlandt-Peekskill Anti-Racism Coalition at Common Council meetings for the past year. At the meetings Davis has asked Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster to publically denounce Phipps but the Mayor has not conceded to Davis’ request.
“It is pretty amazing,” said Davis of the board’s vote. “It was a long, ugly battle."
“Its good news. It’s definitely something that needed to happen for this community to move forward,” Davis said, speaking of Peekskill's low-income community.
Davis says that Phipps was entering women’s apartments unannounced, locking his daughter's dance group out of the Bohlman Towers community room to prevent them from rehearsing, raising rent as much as $200 per month in violation of Housing Authority by-laws and is generally disrespectful.
The Council had the Peekskill Police Department investigated Davis’ complaints and Peekskill Police Chief Eugene Tumolo reported at the that the investigation revealed no one in Bohlman Towers who would confirm or report that there was a problem with Phipps entering women’s apartments. The council also reported that the dance group had been locked out several times by accident, but that the Peekskill Housing Authority Board asked Phipps to keep the room unlocked and resolved the issue.
“I have no opinion one way or another in the matter,” Peekskill Mayor Foster said of the board’s decision. “It is my understanding that Phipps has agreed to stay on as an interim director while they search. It was a board decision making sure there is still consistency. I heard they are also engaging a professional firm to (help with the search).”
The Mayor said that Phipps has focused a lot on improving the quality of the physical facilities, common areas and apartments, and on upgrading buildings and making them safer.
“He has worked hard in that respect,” Mayor Foster said.
The Peekskill Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is a seven member unit with five appointments made by the mayor and two persons selected as tenant representatives by the residents. Currently there is one appointment seat and tenant seat open, the board reported on June 24.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect comments released by the Peekskill Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on June 24.