Report: Ypsilanti Housing Commission employee received vacation pay while jailed in Texas
An Ypsilanti Housing Commission employee received vacation pay while jailed in Texas in 2009.
According to a Housing Commission report, Eric Temple, an administrative specialist, received pay for 147 accrued vacation hours while serving 10 days in jail and going through the legal system in Michigan and Texas for nearly two months.
Temple was convicted of felonious theft in 2004 for writing a bad check for a new car in his previous hometown of Missouri City, Texas.
In total, Temple was paid for 18.4 work days of the approximately 55 total days he was on personal leave from his position and tied up in the Brazoria County jail and legal system.
But Housing Commission personnel policies do not specifically prohibit employees from using personal leave to serve time in jail. There also are no policies against employees receiving vacation pay while in jail.
The Housing Commission and its Board of Commissioners have not taken any action against Temple.
Housing Commission Executive Director Walter Norris told AnnArbor.com that Temple didn’t disclose that the leave of absence was to serve jail time, but to deal with a legal situation. Norris said he had “no idea” about Temple’s whereabouts.
But he added the situation was addressed “properly within context of (personnel) policy, and I don’t think there should be any further reaction.”
The commission is funded with federal tax dollars administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Although HUD has been investigating YHC for a litany of issues that include a lack of transparency, executive mismanagement and financial discrepancies, it has so far not taken any action over Temple being paid while jailed.
HUD officials at regional offices in Detroit and Chicago previously said they didn’t know if Temple was paid with taxpayer dollars while serving time. They said they were “deeply concerned” about the situation but have not returned follow up calls or emails from AnnArbor.com.
But some Ypsilanti City Council members have expressed growing frustration with what they charge is a lack of transparency in the Housing Commission. Several council members previously underscored that they are not concerned that Temple is a convicted felon, but are concerned about him being paid while jailed and with the Housing Commission’s lack of transparency.
The Housing Commission and Board of Commissioners had previously declined to answer questions from AnnArbor.com or City Council regarding the situation.
Council Member Ricky Jefferson said he didn't think Temple should have been paid, but acknowledged there was nothing in the Housing Commission's rules that said he couldn't receive his vacation pay.
But he questioned how Norris was unaware that Temple was jailed.
"It very unlikely that Mr. Norris did not know that his employee, Mr. Temple, was convicted while on trial in October 2004, and that he was jailed in April 2009 in both Michigan and Texas," Jefferson said.
At its March 20 meeting, the City Council asked for several items in a resolution, including Temple’s timesheets from March 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009 and the Housing Commissions’ check registry for 2009.
The resolution passed 5-1, with Mayor Paul Schreiber voting against it. The Housing Commission provided a summary report, but not the check registry or other requested documents.
Schreiber said the report concluded that there was no violation of Housing Commission policy. He did not say he felt there was an ethical concern when asked.
"As long as no YHC policies were violated concerning Eric Temple, I think the YHC board should be concentrating on getting out of HUD troubled status," Schreiber said in an email.
"I think there are better ways to spend vacation than in jail, however, if he wants to spend his vacation there, it's OK with me," he later added.
The City Council cannot remove Housing Commission employees. Only the council-appointed Board of Commissioners and HUD can do that. Several council members have discussed removing the Board of Commissioners and implementing a new board that will take action.
Council member Pete Murdock said he isn't sure there's anyone suitable or willing to serve on the Board of Commissioners.
"Until HUD takes (the Housing Commission) over, we’re going to have the saga of Walter Norris a board that cant shoot straight," Murdock said.
Jefferson said he wants the current Board of Commissioners unseated.
"It is time to remove the (Board of Commissioners) to restore accountability and suitable oversight of the YHC executive director," he said. "I will confer with council and the city attorney to determine how to proceed."
According to documents obtained by AnnArbor.com, Temple was jailed in Texas in 2009 for violating the terms of his probation.
Brazoria County, Texas, records show Temple was sentenced to five years probation for writing a bad check between $1,500 and $20,000. He was allowed to leave the state to take his job at the YHC.
According to an official with the Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department, Temple failed to complete the terms of his probation and was held by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department after being arrested on April 13, 2009.
He was jailed from April 28 to May 8 in Texas, and court records indicate that he wasn’t allowed to leave Texas until June 5. Records also show Temple had two other convictions for writing bad checks dating back to 1991.
Housing Commission personnel policies state employees can take a leave of absence of up to 30 days every three years, and an additional 30 days if approved by the executive director.
The handbook states that leave is granted without payment, but “with the supervisor's approval, an employee may take any available vacation, personal or compensatory leave as part of the approved period of leave.”
In his report on the Temple situation to the City Council, Norris said Temple requested a leave of absence for legal reasons. Norris said the leave and vacation pay was consistent with personnel policies.
“I concluded that the circumstances of the reported conviction do not interfere with Mr. Temple’s ability to do his job,” Norris wrote in the report. “There has been no indication of any workplace misconduct. There has been no misrepresentation or dishonesty with regard to the leave either. Therefore, I have not made any disciplinary recommendations."
He recommended the Housing Commission’s legal counsel make changes to the personnel policies.
Among those suggested are disclosure of felonies while employed with the Housing Commission and greater checks on employees in “positions of policymaking or discretionary authority over public assets".
Norris has said the conviction has no impact on Temple’s job. He didn’t specify on Temple’s responsibilities, but said job duties published in a 2003 advertisement for the position included “grant writing of grant funded programs, resident council formation, and administrative responses to HUD for numerous administrative areas.”
Norris worked at the Galveston, Texas, Housing Authority with Norris before Norris was terminated from that post in 1996. He is responsible for bringing Temple to Ypsilanti after starting here in 2003.