September 20, 2013

New director named for Plattsburgh Housing Authority

JOE LoTEMPLIO Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh Housing Authority has named a new director to replace Lori Cantwell, who was removed from her duties earlier this year.

Mark Hamilton, who has served as the interim director since Cantwell was removed on May 3, has been named the new director.

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“We were going to do a national search, but Mark has been perfect for this position,” Housing Authority Board of Directors Chairwoman Shirley O’Connell told the Press-Republican.

“He has been a big morale booster, and he is constantly looking for ways to improve things here, and he is a great motivator.”

Hamilton, 35, takes the job with a salary of $85,000.

The board has been dealing with Cantwell’s situation for much of this summer and is seeking nearly $600,000 from her in legal action.

The Housing Authority filed a summons with notice in State Supreme Court against Cantwell seeking damages for “breach of fiduciary duty; recission (the right to have a contract set aside if it has been entered into mistakenly); fraud and deceit, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.”

O’Connell said she could not discuss the Cantwell case while it is still in the courts, and Cantwell did not return a call from the Press-Republican seeking comment.

Hamilton, who is the son-in-law of Housing Authority Vice Chairman Clayton Morris, was hired as the assistant director in August of 2012. He was approved by the Board of Directors for the head job permanently on Wednesday Morris abstained from the vote.

“At first, I don’t think we had any intention of hiring him, but the board has been amazed at what he has done,” O’Connell said.

“I would have felt bad if we didn’t hire him.”

The federal Housing and Urban Development program, which oversees the Housing Authority, gave the board until the end of November to hire a new director. The deadline was extended three months from the end of August.

Plattsburgh Housing Authority is funded by HUD and provides housing to those who are income eligible. There are more than 800 units in Plattsburgh for families and seniors.

O’Connell said the board felt that Hamilton was most qualified for the job and was not concerned about his relationship with Morris.

“I understand what people might think, but we made the best possible decision we could have, and we believe Mark will do very well for us,” she said.

Hamilton said he plans to do his best to promote the successful programs of Plattsburgh Housing Authority and to get more involved in the community.

“We hope to improve our relationships with the community and community organizations and get out there and be more a part of the community,” he said.

“Our staff is very dedicated, and they understand the importance of what we do for the families we serve here.”

Hamilton said he wants to promote the Ted K Center at the Housing Authority, which serves youth who live in the program’s housing units.

“It’s a unique thing we have here, and very few have something like this, and we want to let people know that there are good things going on here for kids,” he said.

The Housing Authority recently received a 99.9 on a performance review from HUD, which Hamilton said is a credit to the Housing Authority staff.

“It shows how well our staff does to fulfill its mission,” he said.

In addition to naming Hamilton as the new director, the Housing Authority Board also named Kathy Insley as the new attorney for the program. Insley, a Plattsburgh attorney, will be paid $36,000 for the job, which is a one-year appointment, O’Connell said.

Cantwell was serving as both the executive director of the Plattsburgh Housing Authority and as the outfit’s attorney. She was receiving a salary of $171,870 for both duties.

Insley was selected after the Housing Authority Board put the job out for bid.

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