LOWELL -- The Lowell Housing Authority board unanimously approved an amended contract for LHA Executive Director Gary Wallace that included eliminating the requirement that four of five board members must vote in the affirmative for termination.
The board's 4-0 vote at a special meeting Wednesday night was a response to the state Department of Housing and Community Development stating it would not approve the deal without changes to the termination clause and other sections of the five-year deal.
Without a contract, the state considers Wallace an "at-will" employee who can be terminated at any time, for any reason.
Chairwoman Kristin Ross-Sitcawich and board members Tim Green, Bopha Peou and Rosaline Willie-Bonglo voted in favor of the amended contract after just more than 3 minutes of discussion and only one question asked.
The meeting was held in Wallace's executive conference room instead of the typical location, the Armand Mercier Center.
The amended termination clause requires a "majority vote of the Board of Commissioners" for action on that clause.
The LHA board typically has five members, but has had four members since the resignation of then-chairman Michael Zaim earlier this year. City Manager Kevin Murphy is expected to appoint a fifth member to the board in the coming weeks.
DHCD had also said the "for cause" portion of the termination clause was too narrow. The amended deal still lists four reasons Wallace could be terminated, but adds an "including but not limited" phrase to the "for cause" section.
Wallace and the board also added DHCD to the signature page, and the deal says DHCD must approve any amendments to the contract.
The amended contract was approved provided that the state will approve it within 10 days of submission or Wallace's current contract will remain in effect, said Ross-Sitcawich.
Wallace said he has received indication that the state is accepting of the contract, but the pact still must be submitted to them for final approval.
Phil Nyman, an attorney for the authority, said he was under the same understanding. He spoke highly of the contract.
"I think it is in the best interests of the board, and I assume it is the best interests of Gary," said Nyman, saying he also thought the deal was in the best interests of the citizens of the city.
Matthew Sheaff, a spokesman for DHCD, told The Sun earlier Wednesday the state will review the amended contract and then decide whether to approve it.
Green, Peou and Willie-Bonglo did not speak during the meeting.
The LHA voted at the conclusion of the contract matter to go into an executive session to discuss a real-estate transaction.
Wallace's contract was first approved by the LHA board last April. In response to a Sun inquiry, DHCD said in October it had not received the deal and began its review.
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