Ypsilanti Housing Commission employee has felony conviction
An Ypsilanti Housing Commission employee and former Ypsilanti Public School Board trustee is a convicted felon who was jailed for 10 days in 2009 while he was still apparently an employee of the YHC.
Eric Temple, who has been employed as an administrative specialist with the Housing Commission since 2004, was convicted of felonious theft between $1,500 and $20,000 in January 2002 for writing a bad check for a new car in his former hometown of Missouri City, Texas, near Galveston.
He remained jailed from April 28 to May 8, 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.
What remains unclear is how Temple’s employment at the Housing Commission during that time was handled. Temple and Housing Commission Executive Director Walter Norris declined to comment, and YHC Board of Commissioners either did not return calls from AnnArbor.com or declined to comment.
AnnArbor.com is seeking to obtain Temple’s employment record.
Although Housing Commission officials have declined to discuss Temple or the nature of his job, Mayor Paul Schreiber said in an interview that Temple took care of daily financial details. Minutes from City Council's regular Feb. 21 meeting show Schreiber introduced Temple as the Housing Commission's "Finance Manager."
An attorney for the Housing Commission said the agency is reviewing its policies regarding the situation. The city recently eliminated a question asking potential employees if they are convicted felons from their applications, and there are no rules against the city hiring felons. There is also nothing in the YHC employee handbook that says the agency can't hire felons.
The issue was brought to the public’s attention by Ypsilanti resident Bob Hunter during public comment of City Council’s Feb. 21 meeting. Hunter told council Temple is a convicted felon and questioned why he was employed.
City Attorney John Barr recommended council pass a resolution requesting the YHC Board of Commissioners take some kind of action on the situation or investigate it. However, the issue is not on the council’s agenda for the regular March 6 meeting.
“Since the matter has come to the attention of City Council, it is my recommendation that council request the commission to investigate and take any appropriate action and report back to council,” Barr said in the memo to City Manager Frances McMullan.
City Council has no control over who is fired or hired at the Housing Commission. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development delivers federal funding to local housing commissions that manage property for low-income residents, and the agencies must comply with strict HUD guidelines and standards.
The housing commission’s staff is overseen by the board of commissioners whose members are appointed and removed by City Council, giving the city at least an indirect way of influencing what happens at the Housing Commission.
Schreiber was chairman of the Housing Commission Board of Commissioners when Temple was hired in 2004. While the Board approves candidates who are hired, the executive director does interviews and vetting, Schreiber said. He said it was a similar arrangement to the city manager hiring city employees. Council doesn’t vet or interview employees who don’t play a top role in running the city.
Schreiber said Executive Director Walter Norris hired Temple and didn’t reveal that Temple had a felony conviction.
He said the board wasn’t made aware of the felony conviction and he had never heard anything about it until Hunter brought up the issue during public comment.
But he said Temple has done a good job at the housing commission.
"He does a lot of detail work and I think he has done a good job at it," Schreiber said.
Temple was also appointed the he YPS school board and served a partial term from April 2007 to June 2008. He has since unsuccessfully run for a seat on the board.
Norris and Temple worked together at the Galveston Housing Authority before Norris was terminated from that post in 1996 following a consultant's "highly critical evaluation of his administration," the Galveston Daily News reported.
A report on the issues from the consultant said the Galveston Housing Authority staff members were not open to the public and that financial information presented to the board was “inadequate, unclear, incomplete and if provided, not done so in a timely manner.”
The YHC has recently come under fire from HUD for similar issues and is working through a sustainability plan to try to correct issues within the agency.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. To contact the news desk email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-623-2530. For more Ypsilanti stories, visit our Ypsilanti page.