Hallandale commission fires CRA boss; abrupt move avoids airing “dirty laundry,” mayor says

By William Gjebre,

Mayor Joy Cooper

Hallandale Beach city commissioners last night fired the executive director of the city’s embattled Community Redevelopment Agency after just two years on the job.

Alvin B. Jackson Jr.’s termination comes amid an ongoing investigation by the Broward Office of the Inspector General into management practices at both the city and the CRA prior to Jackson’s arrival.

Mayor Joy Cooper led the ouster, saying commissioners “expected competency, transparency, and communications” that Jackson failed to deliver despite “second and third chances” to improve.

“It’s not just trust,” said Cooper. “It’s the work product,” she said. “It’s been frustrating….I have not seen many of the plans he’s developing.”

“It seems we have lost trust” in Jackson, said commissioner Anthony Sanders, who along with commissioner William Julian backed Cooper’s motion to terminate Jackson “without cause.”

Removing Jackson “without cause” allows him to receive a severance package of health insurance for nine months after his final workday, January 18, 2013, and 20 weeks of pay (about $50,000), in accordance with his contract.

The commission, sitting as the CRA’s board of directors, voted 3-2 to oust Jackson.

Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy and newly elected commissioner Michele Lazarow opposed Jackson’s firing.

Lewy said he favored holding a public hearing at which commissioners would have discussed their specific complaints about Jackson’s performance. If cause for dismissal was established, the city would not have to pay Jackson any severance.

Cooper, however, said she did not want a hearing about cause to avoid airing the city’s “dirty laundry.” She declined to elaborate after the meeting.

Jackson was stoic after the termination vote.

“I’m done,” he said. “When you’re being asked to leave you’ve got to do what’s best for the community. I did not want to impede progress (of projects).”

CRA Executive Director Alvin B. Jackson Jr.

The mayor became upset with Jackson when he approved CRA staff salary hikes, including for himself, during the 2011-2012 fiscal year without guidance from city commissioners.

She also complained when the CRA staff failed to discover that a community group recommended for a city grant had failed to maintain its status as a non-profit group, making it ineligible for the funds.

The CRA collects and oversees the use of property tax dollars to promote business and revitalize neighborhoods. Those dollars are supposed to be spent on projects within the district. Three-fourths of the city, including the area around City Hall, is within the CRA’s boundaries.

When Jackson took over two years ago, the CRA was under the controversialdirection of the city manager’s office. He was hired shortly after city commissioners fired City Manager Mike Good for excessive absences and other problems.

After Good’s departure, an outside auditing firm found that the CRA had failed to properly track city land acquisitions totaling more than $28 million and loans to local businesses.

The Inspector General’s Office began its probe last April. City officials have been questioned and thousands of pages of documents have been obtained about those land deals, loans and various city grants and donations to community groups.

As they dismissed Jackson, commissioners also acknowledged that the CRA had greatly improved under his leadership.

Among other things, Jackson initiated a broad plan for the CRA district and created procedures to ensure accountability for loans and grants.

“We are better off now than under Mike Good, “ said Lewy.

“When he took over the CRA was a train wreck,” said Julian. “There is a good staff now, important projects are underway.”

Julian said he thought Jackson deserved a “second chance” despite some admitted mistakes. But the idea faded when Jackson told commissioners he thought the time had come for him “to move on.”

While some speakers at last night’s public meeting backed the vote to fire Jackson, others faulted it and complained about the lack of improvements in the city’s low-income, predominantly blacknorthwest section.

“He should not be dismissed,” said resident Gerald Dean, who complained that the CRA’s few efforts there have been ineffective.

Mary Washington, a northwest area civic activist, noted the city used the rundown conditions in the northwest section to establish the CRA in 1996.

“I thought by now we’d have decent housing,” she said, adding it hasn’t happened.

“All the CRA money is being spent in the eastern portion of the CRA,” Washington said. “It’s time the northwest to get the balance of the money. Please follow through; we want our community back.”

Cooper told commissioners that after Jackson leaves, City Manager Renee Crichton will temporarily guide the CRA until a new permanent director is found.

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Latest comments

  • As David Bruce Smith said, HB taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on in City Hall. The City’s dirty laundry needs a good airing, but now they’ve hung Jackson out to dry instead.

    Anyone shocked, shocked that he was following orders from certain commissioners that led to this?

    Must be really something in that city’s water.

  • How about Lauderdale Lakes CRA Director Gary Rogers.

    He’s been sitting around, twitling his thumbs, running a CRA that has no money to its name.

    He’s an expert. Just ask him, he’ll be glad to tell you.

  • Wow, same song different verse

    Mayor Joy Cooper led the ouster, saying commissioners “expected competency, transparency, and communications”. Cooper wants transparency when it suits her and only when it’s convenient.

    Cooper, however, said she did not want a hearing about cause to avoid airing the city’s “dirty laundry.” She declined to elaborate after the meeting. Very convenient….probably because a deal was struck before the meeting which included a confidentiality statement preventing Mr. Jackson from airing some very dirty laundry about Cooper.

    The bulldog is being nice, what Cooper repeatedly said was “I will share the documents and information I have after the meeting” Cooper never did share any thing. And if she does, it will be edited to suit her needs.

    What Cooper does continually is LIE to the public at large and specifically the residents in attendance who waited over two hours to speak and hear why she removed Dr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is the one person who finally brought the CRA into compliance with state law after the decade of illegal activity under the direction of Mayor Cooper, former City Manager Good and former City Attorney Jove.

  • I have asked for a complete record of the activites of the CRA during the tenure of Alvin Jackson. While I was not on the Commission at the time I want full transparency and will air the “Dirty Laundry” since I was asked to vote on the matter.
    Bill Julian —City Commission.

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