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Northwest housing authority deputy director files complaint against agency

Sims on administrative leave pending results of investigation
By Jack Heffernan

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 17, 2018 5:52PM

Last changed on August 17, 2018 6:09PM

Discord between top administrators at the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority has led to investigations and a complaint to the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Discord between top administrators at the Northwest Oregon Housing Authority has led to investigations and a complaint to the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.

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A top Northwest Oregon Housing Authority administrator who is on paid leave pending the results of an investigation has lodged a complaint against the agency with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The complaint, filed Friday by deputy director Teresa Sims, claims Todd Johnston, the executive director, retaliated against her for complaints about his job performance.

Her allegations reveal details about ongoing investigations at the housing authority that had been shielded from public view.

The housing authority manages low-income housing in Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties and provides rental assistance. Since Sims was appointed deputy director in 2011, she has supervised the federal housing choice voucher program staff and overseen human resources.

In May, Sims sent a letter to Scott Lee, the chairman of the housing agency’s board, complaining about Johnston. The letter claimed that during his tenure as executive director, Johnston has mismanaged public funds, misused grant funds, engaged in negligent hiring practices and failed to conduct employee performance reviews.

The housing authority hired an outside firm to investigate Johnston.

Sims was placed on leave around the same time as the accusations against Johnston surfaced. A different outside firm began investigating whether Sims, in her role with the agency, had falsified records to allow her son and fellow employee, Benjamin Natividad, to receive public housing assistance when he was renting from his uncle.

Sims’ compliant to the Bureau of Labor and Industries claims Johnston was misrepresenting federal regulations to “retaliate against me and to undermine my credibility in respect to the concerns I reported to the Board of Directors.”

Johnston specifically claimed Sims falsified an income verification form on behalf of her son, according to Sims’ account. Sims claims that both her and her son’s signatures on the form were forged.

“The handwriting appeared to be Johnston’s and I believe he forged this document to retaliate against me,” the complaint alleges. “The investigator showed me a copy of the income verification form. I would never sign anything in respect to verifying Natividad’s income for Section 8 purposes.”

Johnston could not immediately be reached for comment.

The complaint names the housing authority, Johnston, Lee and LinMarie DiCianni, who resigned from the agency’s board in July following what she called a harassing email exchange with Sims. The complaint alleges Lee failed to offer the entire scope of the investigations and that DiCianni mischaracterized the email exchange in comments to the news media.

“Why would I have retaliated against her while she was already on leave?” Lee said. “These claims are baseless and mean nothing to me.”

The housing authority’s investigations, which have taken weeks longer than expected, could be completed soon. “I expect to give a report by the end of next week,” Lee said.



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