The Chester Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners underwent a day of training this month, devoting special time to reviewing the many daunting laws and rules that govern public housing. Retreating to the Pendle Hill conference center in Wallingford, the day was devoted to ensuring the board's ability to provide proper oversight of the agency.
"Since we emerged from court oversight in December of 2014, we have felt it is more important than ever for the board to thoroughly understand the regulations," said CHA board chair Sheila Church. "Getting away and spending a day gave us a greater opportunity to focus on the issues and responsibilities we regularly vote on."One of those key issues is procurement: the process of taking bids and proposals and selecting vendors from whom to buy goods and services.
This is a sensitive topic when dealing with public funds at any level, but especially in CHA's case, since the funds are federal and therefore heavily scrutinized."Our training days include hypothetical case studies. Scenarios are presented and commissioners are asked to come up with solutions to dilemmas, like a sticky procurement issue," said Steven A. Fischer, CHA's executive director.
"For example, when you have a party bidding on a housing authority contract and that party has a familial relationship with an employee or an official, what would commissioners do? And of course, they can't vote to approve that contract."In addition to procurement, the day afforded the opportunity to take a fresh look at CHA's by-laws, the Sunshine Law and Pennsylvania State Ethics law.
It is also essential to know policies established be the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency charged with CHA's oversight."This group of commissioners is fully committed. They are a group of volunteer professionals, who welcome carving a full day of their busy schedules with no financial gain so they can responsibly fill their roles as Housing Commissioners," Fischer said.
"When we meet with HUD on various CHA issues and hear the high regard that they have for this housing authority, it makes my fellow Commissioners and me proud of what we've accomplished," Church said. "One reason we have come such a long way is that we study the rules and adhere to them. Devoting an extra day of our time for review is well worth the effort."