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West Carthage Housing Authority board terminates director

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WEST CARTHAGE — Following a 40-minute executive session, the West Carthage Housing Authority board of directors voted Wednesday to terminate Executive Director Brian J. Wohnsiedler and deny the resignation of its housing manager.

The West Carthage Housing Authority, established in 1979, comprises three units to serve disabled people or those 62 or older. Mr. Wohnsiedler became the third director of the authority in February following Nancy A. Fargo’s retirement. Jerry LaRock, who retired in 2005, was the original director.

The authority members discussed the resignation of housing manager Sarah J. Millard. Having worked for the authority for nine years, she submitted her resignation to the board at its March 26 special meeting without explaining her decision. The board did not accept it then and set Wednesday’s meeting .

Board Chairman Dean P. Johnson opened the meeting to public comment. Among the 18 tenants present, the only question was whether Mrs. Millard had reconsidered. Mr. Johnson said she had not.

Rita Milewski, a West Side Terrace resident, said she expressed her views at the March 26 meeting. She said that during the executive session, she conveyed favorable opinions about both Mr. Wohnsiedler and Mrs. Millard. “Sarah got me into my apartment here and did a wonderful job for me,” she said. “I was shocked when she said she was resigning. Brian has done a fabulous job. I hope they can work through it.”

“Sarah knows her own mind; she can make her own decision,” Cindy Newman of Dalton Estates said. “If she wants to resign, she should be able to resign.”

Back in regular session, Mr. Johnson called for a motion to terminate Mr. Wohnsiedler. “The board hasn’t been happy with the direction everything is going here,” Mr. Johnson said. “We are thinking of the tenants. We want to get back on track, the way things have been.”

The board voted for the termination 4-2, with Ronald J. Novak and Todd C. Norrgard opposed. Few in attendance voiced agreement with the decision; most were disgruntled.

Mr. Johnson then called for a motion not to accept Mrs. Millard’s resignation.

Board member Mary M. Britton appeared at the meeting late, saying she had not been informed of it by email, the customary practice.

When asked for her vote on the resignation, Mrs. Britton said, “No, I’m 100 percent for Brian.” This brought applause from the many tenants. The motion passed 4-3, with Mr. Novak and Mr. Norrgard opposed.

“I voted for Brian from the start — I don’t know one thing the man hasn’t done,” Mrs. Britton said. “Then there’s all these allegations and rumors. I want to see proof.” She then tendered her resignation from the board.

Mrs. Britton later said she has been a tenant at West Side Terrace for 22 years, and a member of the board for 13. She called Mr. Wohnsiedler’s termination “disgraceful.”

Ms. Milewski asked the board: If Mr. Wohnsiedler was hired from a pool of 25 candidates, and was said to be “the best person for the job,” why was he terminated? Mr. Johnson replied that he was not taking the facility in the direction the board had wanted.

Last summer, the Lewis County Board of Legislators selected Mr. Wohnsiedler as county manager, but withdrew the appointment after questions arose about his previous employment as executive director of the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The housing authority board will hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m. April 21 at West Side Terrace. At that time the board will determine how to proceed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson said he will oversee the day-to-day activity of the housing authority.

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