Renee Glover, who transformed Atlanta into a national model for public housing but also drew scrutiny for her $325,000 salary, resigned Tuesday as head of the city’s housing authority.
She had 22 months remaining on her contract. Her severance package, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls for her to receive one year’s salary plus $89,600 in consulting fees, for a total of $414,600. In addition she will receive up to $20,000 for reimbursement of legal costs incurred by her during negotiations leading to her resignation and up to $5,000 for expenses incurred by her in looking for a new job.
Glover led the housing authority for 19 years and is credited with moving poor residents into mixed-income developments and creating partnerships with private real estate developers. She was highly regarded for her work, earning national plaudits and awards from housing advocates and political leaders.
But while Glover, 63, earned praise in some quarters for demolishing crime-ridden housing projects, critics lambasted her for contributing to gentrification in the city, driving the poorest residents away by reducing the stock of low income housing.
AHA’s board of commissioners accepted Glover’s resignation Tuesday, effective immediately. She’s agreed to stay on for 90 days to help the agency transition to new leadership.
Glover’s departure has been rumored for months. She drew the wrath of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, when in 2010 the AHA board extended her lucrative contract for five years, effectively limiting his ability to replace her.
Reed had just arrived at City Hall and wasted no time installing a trusted supporter, Daniel Halpern, as head of the board.
On Tuesday Reed issued a statement thanking Glover for her service and wishing her well.
Glover was, at one time, the highest paid public housing executive in the nation.
Records show that in 2010 she collected $644,000. She argued the figure was closer to $588,000 and said even that smaller figure was inflated by unused sick and vacation time, performance bonuses and deferred compensation.
The salary helped spark local and national outrage, with executive pay at housing authorities soon becoming a national issue. Last year, HUD announced a $155,000 cap on what the federal government will pay for executive salaries.
Glover’s base contract sets her annual salary at $325,000 and she is eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to $35,000.
In April, The AJC reported that Glover also surrounded herself with well-paid subordinates. Records obtained by the newspaper showed 10 percent of AHA employees earned more than $150,000 a year and nearly 20 percent earn more than $100,000. Those salaries are well above most of the nation’s other public housing authorities. Top AHA staff were also paid bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Glover defended the salaries, telling the AJC it was a mistake to compare AHA’s salaries to other agencies because the private-public nature of Atlanta’s housing model make its work unique. She also said that to attract top talent she must pay salaries competitive with the private sector.
Still, the AJC report attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who demanded more records from AHA detailing travel and other expenses. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican said Tuesday those records have not yet arrived.
When Glover, a corporate finance attorney, took over, the agency was in financial disarray and most authority clients lived in housing projects.
Glover believed that keeping residents isolated in pockets of poverty was counterproductive and pushed to mainstream residents with residents in different income brackets.
In an opinion piece published in August, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin wrote that Glover’s salary was a good investment, considering what she was able to do to transform the city. Franklin said in 1994, when Glover took over AHA, it “teetered on insolvency.”
“Once known as the most violent city in America, Atlanta today is known for its thriving mixed-use, mixed-income communities,” Franklin wrote.
AHA’s investment in its staff and leadership has saved the city millions, has leveraged tens of millions in new investments, and has added to the city’s tax base, Franklin wrote.
But Atlanta resident Joe Beasley, the southeastern regional director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Tuesday that while he considered Glover a “nice lady,” he was glad that she was finally leaving.”
“I call her the gentrification queen. She bought into the idea that there were too many poor people in Atlanta. She bought into the hands of the power elite,” Beasley said. “She drove poor black people out of Atlanta.”
Beasley said Glover’s use of mixed-income housing was detrimental to the poor people who previously lived in public housing. He said they were never able to qualify to return and were scattered throughout metro Atlanta.
He said although it de-centralized poverty, it weakened Atlanta’s political base.
“We fought hard get political influence and Renee destroyed it.”
In a statement, the AHA board said it would launch a nationwide search to replace Glover. In the interim, she will be succeeded by Joy Fitzgerald, AHA’s chief real estate officer.
RENEE GLOVER TIMELINE
- 1990 – The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development puts the Atlanta Housing Authority on a list of the nation’s “troubled” housing agencies. AHA has thousands of boarded-up units; crime is rampant; rent collection and repairs are spotty.
- March, 1994 – AHA’s president resigns the $140,000-a-year job days before HUD releases a scathing audit of the agency. Renee Glover, then chairwoman of AHA’s board, acknowledges the problems and says they must be addressed.
- September, 1994 – Glover, a corporate finance lawyer, takes a leave from her job with a private law firm to become AHA’s president and CEO. She says she will stay in the job no more than two years. AHA operates 42 public housing complexes, inhabited by 16,500 people.
- 1995 – AHA launches a revolutionary, 14-year campaign to tear down aging projects. Most residents receive Section 8 vouchers that subsidize their rent in privately owned apartments. Fourteen AHA projects are replaced by privately managed mixed-income developments. The effort will win AHA and Glover many awards and plaudits.
- January, 1998 – HUD removes AHA from its list of “troubled” housing authorities.
- July, 2005 – AHA begins evicting tenants who are not working, in school or in a work force training program. The policy is designed to encourage residents to become self-sufficient.
- June, 2009 – AHA bulldozes the last of its old projects, Bowen Homes.
- 2011 – New Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, through his appointees to the AHA board, tries to exert more control over the agency, creating conflict with Glover. In November, she acknowledges she is negotiating an exit.
- June, 2012 –Glover’s pay becomes an issue when HUD reveals that her total compensation in 2010 was well over $600,000. HUD officials call for a $155,000 salary cap for housing authority officials nationwide.
- April, 2013 – The AJC reveals that 10 percent of AHA employees earn more than $150,000 a year and almost 20 percent earn more than $100,000.
- June 2013 – U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) demands that HUD supply information about AHA salaries and perks, setting a deadline of mid-August.
- Sept. 3, 2013 – The AHA board accepts Glover’s resignation.