Housing Center's 2019 funding reinstated

Oak Park board OKs release of withheld checks to OPRHC

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park village board voted unanimously Monday to reinstate previously withheld 2019 grant funds to the Oak Park Regional Housing Center (OPRHC). The board had suspended payments to the center after it had failed to turn in its semi-annual and second quarter reports to the village government on time. The board also voted to extend the deadline of the center's 2018 financial audit, required under the 2019 funding grant agreement, until the end of the month.

"It's a small victory," said Athena Williams, OPRHC executive director. "It's not just about getting the money for me or the agency. It's about the establishment and the community." The released 2019 funds will be used to pay the center's bills and its staff.

OPRHC is still facing a potential cut of all its village funding in 2020 as the village board prepares its budget for next year.  

"The language in the agreement which is the same as all your traditional partner agencies, it says that you are required to prepare an audit by law, and you have to do it within six months of the end of the fiscal year," said Cara Pavlicek, village manager.

Trustees Jim Taglia and Deno Andrews both said it was reasonable to extend the audit deadline.

Audit results then need to be presented to the village within 30 days of its completion. According to Pavlicek, the center's results should have been presented at the beginning of August. 

"I was wondering, have we ever withheld funds from partnering agencies for similar reasons?" asked Trustee Susan Buchanan. 

"We haven't had this level of failure of compliance. We have sent out similar letters with other, not partners, but other vendors or contractors of the village or developers when they're out of compliance with agreements that the board has," Pavlicek said. "We'll use the provisions in the agreement to send notice of default to give them formal notice to cure." 

Pavlicek said putting down hard deadlines was a "last resort," but staff doesn't have the power to waive deadlines.   

"We were told by the housing center that the audit would be delayed. We were told a much earlier date that we'd get it and it wasn't until recently that we learned that the engagement was now starting and so that's why, again, we felt we needed to bring it to the board to grant the waiver because we, as staff, aren't allowed to waive requirements of your agreements," the village manager said.

Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla asked Pavlicek to clarify what she meant by "this level of failure of compliance."

"It's not unusual to be a couple weeks late on delivery of audit or agreements," Pavlicek said. According to her most partners do everything on time. Pavlicek, citing the transition of multiple executive and interim executive directors at the housing center during the 12 months, said the village did not receive the response they needed from OPRHC.

"Our role is to be consistently evaluating multiple agreements, whether it's with the partners or vendors for what we contract with people to do, and almost all of those agreements have default provisions," said Pavlicek.

 "This wasn't a couple weeks delay; this was a couple months," Pavlicek said. She didn't recall if OPRHC had ever been late to turn in audit results in the past, but she did say she remembers reminding the center to turn them in, which isn't unusual. 

Walker-Peddakotla who wasn't at the previous Oct. 28 finance committee meeting during which OPRHC gave a presentation vying for continued village funding for 2020, voiced her support of the center. 

"What we're voting on tonight is about the 2019 budget, but we still have the overall question of are we going to fund them in 2020," she said. Walker-Peddakotla also said that maintaining integrated housing, OPRHC's mission, takes effort. 

"I think that, as a village, if we say we value integration and we value racial equity, then we shouldn't be putting an organization – the only organization – that really focuses on integration, which is a core value of this village, we shouldn't be putting them in a place where they cannot meet their payroll needs or they cannot actually sustain their business," said Walker-Peddakotla. "What the housing center does is difficult work. It cannot be done by the village. It cannot be done by most other agencies."

Walker-Peddakotla also disagreed that the village is a good partner to OPRHC just because it foots the bills. 

"The village, in my opinion, has systematically undermined the housing center by removing the core tenets of the partnership from when it was created," she said. 

Walker-Peddakotla said that there used to be a working relationship between the center, village and landlords. According to her, that relationship no longer exists. She also cited a former program the village had that provided loans to landlords for property maintenance.  

"In my opinion, we should be funding them fully for 2019 because those funds were already passed by the previous board before I got on and we should be funding them fully for 2020," said Walker-Peddakotla. 

The village budget for next year won't be voted on until later this year, so whether the village will continue to fund OPRHC in 2020 remains to be seen.

Post has been edited to fix a typo.

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Reader Comments

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Corey Gimbel from Oak Park  

Posted: November 8th, 2019 7:08 AM

I apologize for my comment. Somehow I attributed it to Trustee Walker-Peddakotla. I guess my desire to critique her overwhelmed my sensibilities. I think your ongoing coverage of this highly charged topic shines a light on it that isn't available anywhere else. Thank you.

Stacey Penelope Sheridan Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: November 7th, 2019 8:41 PM

Corey Gimbel Trustee Buchanan is recorded asking the question you said was asked by Trustee Walker-Peddakotla. It's at the 1:35 mark: http://oak-park.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1157 Deborah Wess, Thank you for bringing that error to my attention. I do know the difference between "tenant" and "tenet" and will fix the story tomorrow when I get into the newsroom.

Corey Gimbel from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2019 8:00 PM

As long as we're picking nits here, how about this egregious misquote, ""I was wondering, have we ever withheld funds from partnering agencies for similar reasons?" asked Trustee Susan Buchanan." That was Arti bloviating, as she, frequently, seems to do, whether her colleagues and the audience, want to hear her or not, not Dr. Buchanan, who is wisely keeping above the OPRHC funding fray. Arti seems to lack historical perspectives on many Oak Park issues, at least to my way of thinking but that doesn't preclude her having FIRM opinions that she must share tediously. Her, not so subtle attempts at making everySINGLE issue brought before the group about race, or equity, or how women are downtrodden is getting a bit tedious. It's not ALWAYS about those things Trustee Walker-Peddakotla. REally, really, really it isn't. The OPRHC was granted a wise reprieve last Monday, to allow them time to get their act together. submit their delinquent 2018 audit and, at the same time, prepare for the daunting task of resurrecting their 2020 funding from the Mayor and Trustees after it was deleted from the upcoming Village budget.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 6th, 2019 5:01 PM

Shakti Saty you want the person you are making a comment to, "Grab some manners", although you have mentioned the person is a realtor, has a home by mentioning the property taxes and suggest that she could have sent a private email. The word still has not been corrected if it is suppose to be, so you may want to take that extra energy you have and send a private email to the writer if you feel that serious about helping. This is only meant to be an example of how things may be better handled between human beings on social media. Some times lead by example is a better path to take

Shakti Saty from Oak Park  

Posted: November 6th, 2019 3:04 PM

Gee Ms. Wess, What a snarky comment. You could have easily sent the writer a private email with the correction. Instead, you chose to post arrogantly and unkindly towards a fellow woman, brand new to the job, whose take home annual salary is not much more than your annual property tax bill. Give her a break. You come off as crank and not very welcoming. Grab some manners, Ms. Realtor.

Deborah Wess  

Posted: November 5th, 2019 9:28 PM

Trustee Walker-Peddakotla didn't say "core tenants" though perhaps that was a Freudian slip when reporting on the Housing Center. She said "tenets". Ms. Sheridan, if you don't know the difference, look it up.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 5th, 2019 9:22 PM

Mediocrity and failure is rewarded. Deadlines don't mean much in Oak Park. Unless it is the date when your property taxes are due.

Corey Gimbel from Oak Park  

Posted: November 5th, 2019 7:36 PM

Yup this will give the OPRHC people a breather, a respite if you will and was really IMHO a forgone conclusion. It could have been worse Cara could have demanded that Athena pledge her undying loyalty, using a microphone, to Anan. (Okay okay just kidding jeeez).

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 5th, 2019 5:40 PM

This is a fair decision to give the Housing Center the opportunity they want. I do not think as Athena Williams is quoted as saying, "It's a small victory," Athena Williams, OPRHC executive director. This is now the chance for Athena Williams to not expect to hear what she is doing good and what she is not doing good. This is time for her to find out if she can find those outside funds to keep the Housing Center going since I do not think the Village is going to keep supporting it

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: November 5th, 2019 3:29 PM

I'm pleased that funding was restored for the year and that the Housing Center has been given the appropriate wake-up call. I sincerely hope that they will develop a new and relevant business model that will help Oak Park's diversity and inclusion in housing. If they can't do that (and quickly), funding should be redirected to more modern and effective methods. Paying someone to create integrated housing in Oak Park isn't the same as actually DOING it.

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