Finalist for DeKalb housing chief could have a conflict
By Jim Walls
For the AJC
The DeKalb County Housing Authority -- already beset with questions about gifts of money or services from vendors -- may be about to hire another vendor as its next executive director.
If Eugene P. "Pete" Walker Jr. becomes DeKalb's new public housing chief, he will oversee the job performance of his current employer, Mercy Housing Southeast, a nonprofit paid to manage several of the authority's properties. He's currently Mercy's president.
Walker, one of three finalists for the housing job, also runs Millennium Development Partners, a for-profit company that does financial and bond consulting for the housing authority.
Walker declined to talk last week about how he would manage any potential conflict of interest with either business, or whether he would even have one. So did Glenwood Ross, chairman of the authority's board, and board member George Maddox.
The two other finalists for the housing job, Robert Kenner and Art Milligan, have a combined 22 years' experience running housing authorities in Florida and North Carolina, while Walker has a degree in business administration and was once CFO of the Atlanta Development Authority. The board met Friday in closed session to talk about personnel but emerged without announcing a decision.
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Maddox, a former state legislator, received $3,000 in campaign contributions from the authority's development partner in 2006 and 2008, and $500 more to help put a new roof on his church. Walker also gave him $1,000 in political contributions.
Walker has his own political connections in DeKalb. His father, Eugene Walker, is a former state senator and former member of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The elder Walker, because of his own actions, is also a former chairman of the DeKalb Development Authority. He had to step down last year following revelations that interests seeking a $45 million tax break from the authority had donated $20,000 to his campaign for a school board seat. Most of those donations went undisclosed until after the election.
DeKalb's housing authority has substantial issues to address -- not just nagging ethical questions, but money matters as well. HUD is wrapping up a forensic audit of the agency after finding $2.5 million intended for public housing recipients was spent instead on ineligible costs, including office supplies, rental cars and the like.
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