The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 12, 2013

Position opens up on controversial board

Dave Sutor
dsutor@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — The five-year term of arguably the most influential and polarizing Johnstown Housing Authority member is set to expire soon.

Brian Vuletich joined the board in August 2008 and became chairman last year.

City Council recently posted a public notice for applicants. Vuletich plans to seek a second term on the board that oversees the city’s public housing units and Section 8 voucher program.

“I think I’ve done a great job, so I’m going to apply,” Vuletich said. “There is still a lot of work that needs done.”

Vuletich has gained both adamant supporters and opponents on City Council.

“I look at what Director Vuletich has been doing, and I like what he’s been doing,” said Councilman Pete Vizza. “He’s been taking the housing authority in a direction I like.”

Councilwoman Marie Mock countered: “Right now, it seems like Brian is against his own mission with the authority.”

Vuletich feels he has made authority meetings more accessible to the public.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we were able to bring the meetings to television and council chambers, providing people the chance to come to meetings and voice their opinions, or they can just watch them on TV. ... The transparency is something that I’m proud of,” Vuletich said.

He was also part of a yearlong dispute between the authority and City Council that ended up in a Cambria County court.

In 2011, Mike Vukovich was appointed to the board by council instead of Theresa Holliday, who applied to retain her position on the authority. The authority refused to seat Vuko­vich because some members felt council violated its own guidelines in the process of selecting him. Vuletich walked out of an authority meeting in a sign of support for Vukovich.

A three-judge panel determined that council’s procedural issues were not enough cause to overturn his appointment.

Vuletich emerged from the fray as the new chairman, replacing the Rev. Ralph Johnson in the board’s top position.

Tensions have continued since then.

Vuletich and authority Executive Director Daniel Kanuch had a heated exchange during an authority meeting in late May.

Jacqueline Molinaro-Thompson, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Pittsburgh field office, scolded the housing authority for not supporting the success of the agency and for making negative public comments.

“I’m just tired of the back and forth of blaming the housing authority, not blaming the housing authority, blaming the housing authority,” said Mock. “There has been so much finger-pointing already. Let’s just work together to figure this out.”

Vuletich, if retained, wants to work on areas of concern within the authority that were outlined last week by the Johnstown Crime and Violence Commission, chaired by state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown.

The ad hoc panel suggested the authority should make a request to HUD for a moratorium on Section 8 vouchers in the city in order to address the area’s concentration of poverty. Other recommendations were: develop a plan to guide people off of assistance, improve oversight of guests in authority housing, strengthen case management and appoint a member of City Council to the housing authority in order to improve communication between the two bodies.

“Housing was an integral part of that report,” Vuletich said.

Applications for the position can be obtained at the city manager’s office, located at City Hall, 401 Main St., Johnstown, Pa. 15901.

Council will select a person to fill the five-year term from among the applicants.

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