A Northwest Oregon Housing Authority commissioner has resigned following what she called a harassing email exchange in which a top administrator, who is on paid leave, complained about the agency’s handling of an ongoing investigation.
Commissioner LinMarie DiCianni stepped down in July after emails from Deputy Director Teresa Sims about the housing agency and the news media.
“These interactions with Ms. Sims were instrumental in my decision to resign from the board,” she said. “This is not something I welcome. It’s not something I brought on, and it’s harassment.”
Sims was put on administrative leave in May following complaints from several staff members. Around the same time, Sims sent a letter to Scott Lee, the chairman of the housing agency’s board, with her own complaints about executive director Todd Johnston and staff.
The agency launched two investigations and has declined to comment publicly about the details of either one.
After a board meeting in early May — before she was placed on leave — Sims pulled DiCianni aside, the commissioner said. Following a discussion about the staff complaints, DiCianni sent Sims an email a week later advising her to collect written documentation.
Sims did not respond until late June, when she sent a lengthy account of her side of the investigation.
DiCianni told Sims, who was on leave at that point, that she forwarded the email to Lee and Johnston.
Nearly a month later, Sims sent another email to DiCianni about a story in The Daily Astorian that publicized the investigation into the deputy director. In the email, Sims asked what was being done about her complaint from May about Johnston and why the agency decided to “publicly attack” her in the story.
“I find it very concerning and the timing a bit odd that I am contacted by a newspaper reporter within hours of the July 12th NOHA Board meeting and the very next day my name is being maligned publicly in The Daily Astorian; as well as a news story on the local radio station being played over and over and over again,” Sims wrote. “I am sure the NOHA Board is investigating the serious issues I have brought to their attention. I would appreciate an update as to what is being done in regards to that matter.”
DiCianni said she did not reply to Sims after the latest email and forwarded it to Lee and Johnston the next day. She resigned later that week after serving 10 months on the board.
“I don’t know why she singled out that commissioner,” Johnston said. “That commissioner was the newest commissioner and the least experienced one. I don’t know why complaints were not sent right to the board chairman.”
Sims could not immediately be reached for comment.
The investigations into Sims and Johnston, which have taken longer than expected, are expected to cost $2,300, Johnston said.
The agency offers rental assistance and owns and manages low-income housing in Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties.
Sims’ lengthy career with the housing authority has predated that of Johnston. Her purview includes human resources and day-to-day functions of the federal housing choice voucher program staff.
Lee said the investigations are expected to be completed within the next 10 days. The board will then discuss the results in an executive session, likely at the next monthly meeting in September.
“At the next meeting, we’ll solve this,” Lee said.