After Drug & Home Invasion Plea…Director Gets $130,000 Payout…

mbrew brought to you by top adAfter Drug and Home Invasion waterworkPlea, Ferndale Housing Director Gets $130,000 Payout from Commission

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 18, 2015)

The Ferndale Housing Commission on Wednesday accepted a settlement agreement negotiated by Attorney Justin Smith on their behalf giving former Housing Director Deborah Wilson a settlement of $130,000. The payout includes six month’s salary and 75% of her accrued vacation and sick days. On Jan. 22, Wilson waived her right to a trial and pled no contest to felony home invasion in the second degree and a charge of possession of a controlled substance. The plea is considered a conviction and Wilson stipulated to the police report that said she had gone into a resident’s apartment and stole prescription pills and switched them with over the counter medicine. She resigned in late November.

934_8600_Gen-Online_Banners3The $130,000 payout will be spread out over a six month period of time. Additionally, Smith said that the hiring process for Wilson’s replacement would be put on hold due to the financial constraint, leaving Emily Vickey as the Acting Director. Vickey worked under Wilson for about twelve years and was moved into the Acting Director position after Wilson’s arrest.

The announcement of the severance was upsetting to people attending the meeting, several of whom made comments about it being unfair. Smith, who also used to work with Wilson at the Ferndale Housing Commission before starting his law practice, explained why he felt the settlement was necessary.

“That, I know, to this board, is very unpalatable. And I’m sure it’s unpalatable for a lot of the people sitting here. But nonetheless it was a contractual term… It was worked into the contract that there was a severance clause. And as discussed with the board, if this ended up in litigation seed04_gallowayit might well have exceeded any amounts of money that we could have paid through just getting her waivers and the rights to sue. So there is some value to that. You might not love it, and the public might not love it, but that is what it is. I don’t like it, frankly,” Smith said.  Wilson’s contract called for a one-year severance.

“The legal fees would get expensive in that type of litigation… This board has upped the ante, and paid for me and the people I use and that, frankly, is taking away from the people sitting in this room… I’ve been making some money off of that certainly. But, at the same time that could ferncareADhave continued.”
Commissioner Paul Stuart responded to the public’s criticism by saying that Wilson was “Recognized and well-known for being a darn good [Housing Director],” and noting that she traveled to speak and do trainings.

Smith stated that Wilson’s sentencing on the criminal convictions would be Feb. 26, and that if people wanted to give a victim impact statement they could go to Oakland County Circuit Court and do so.

Resident Concerns

Prior to Wilson’s arrest and resignation, the Ferndale Housing Commission did not have an open opportunity for public comment, and policies about not complaining prevented residents from chazzano game adspeaking out. Even now some residents fear retaliation, such as being written up or evicted, if they complain.Yet some are taking the opportunity to be heard.

Residents at Autumn House had their first residents meeting, and put together a list of complaints which one resident read to the board at Wednesday’s Housing Commission meeting. Among the complaints were lack of snow shoveling, lack of a dropbox for rent or communications, people being promised Section 8 housing that were not able to get it, people removed from Section 8 by the administration, heat control in rooms, rotting curtains and the $200 replacement charge and other charges to replace items that were not in good condition when people moved in, replacing the pop machine that had been removed, opening back up common spaces like the library, electrical issues, wanting board members and administrators to nicholas-schrock-allstatecome to Autumn house in person at times, claims that staff had cut cords to air conditioning units in the public spaces so they could not be used, the need for maintenance requests to be addressed, roaches due to trash room not being maintained, broken washer and dryer on the third floor, lack of heat and hot water at night, and other needed repairs.

HUD is coming in March to do an On-Site Comprehensive Management Review that will look at all areas of the housing program, including policies, finances, buildings and leadership.

Commission Seat Open

Commissioner Tom Schimansky did not attend the meeting in January or February. When asked about his absence, Board President Don Wiggins explained that Schimansky gave notice in December that he was resigning from the Commission, but that Ferndale City Council had not Candlewickshop_May2014yet appointed his replacement.

Vickey stated that she had sent the notice to the City Manager in December. The City Manager is responsible for selecting an applicant and Council votes on the appointment. The City, however, says they have not yet received any formal resignation.

The city of Ferndale does not administer the housing programs. They’re only responsibility is in appointing the commissioners.   The housing commission itself is responsible for their programming, hiring, contracts, administration, and decisions.   They operate under HUD rules.

Stuart noted that interested parties could apply for the vacant seat. Applications can be obtained at Ferndale City Hall or online at

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