The man who oversees Natick's housing for elderly and the disabled received a scathing review of his job performance Thursday night, earning criticism from the board that oversees him for things like saying “those people” when talking about housing authority residents.
And though executive director Ed Santos has had his job for 27 years, there have been “no other evaluations in recent memory,” according to Natick Housing Authority board chair Gina Govoni.
“Tenants are concerned about how they are treated,” read board member Charlene Foss from Santos' evaluation. Santos “used terms like 'you people' and 'those people' when referring to certain protected groups of people.”
The evaluation also said Santos refused to submit a $100,000 grant proposal; doesn't return phone calls and emails from board members and town officials; delegated decisions about capital improvements and personnel to a fee accountant; and lacks leadership.
As Foss began reading the review, Santos interrupted her.
“Hold it, hold it, hold it,” he said loudly. “I don't feel comfortable listening to this without giving feedback.”
Govoni spent several minutes explaining to Santos why his performance review falls under the state's Open Meeting Law and pointed out that its public reading has been on the agenda since December.
Santos said the review contains comments that are “not true and not representative of what happened” but didn't give examples.
Board members cited Santos' lack of professionalism and cited a March 2010 board meeting when he said jokingly that maintenance workers had gone from working “two hours a day to seven hours a day” because of state intervention in the housing authority's maintenance operations.
Early last year, the state's Department of Community and Housing Development started overseeing the Natick Housing Authority’s maintenance operation after tenants at Cedar Gardens, a 260-unit housing authority complex, complained that snow removal was inadequate and their homes weren't secure.
And board members also said that an electronic database for tracking the housing authority’s units is desperately needed.
Many of the buildings that hold the housing authority's 600-plus units date from the mid-20th century and need extensive renovations. The housing authority has no way to track what needs to be done or what has been done, said Govoni.
The issue resurfaced after Santos' evaluation when board member Erica Ball talked about inadequate egress in four Cedar Gardens buildings. In case of a fire, residents' second form of egress are doors in their closets that lead to the closets of adjoining apartments.
Ball said the safety issue “is paramount” and wondered if grant funds are available to fix the problem.
Santos agreed it should be fixed but didn't answer Ball's question. “We're lucky nothing has happened,” he said.
Santos said that during apartment inspections, staff members make sure nothing is placed against the closet doors. However, staff members don't check to see whether the doors actually work, he said.
Santos will be evaluated twice yearly, said Govoni. Board members gave him specific suggestions to improve including increasing leadership knowledge; communicating better with the board; completing assignments suggested by the board within a month; creating a properties database; and decreasing complaints from residents.
Santos said he'd be responding in detail to his review over the coming weeks. “I will respond to each one,” he said. “I'll use this to hopefully get better.”
Megan McKee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.