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CHA executive director disciplined

December 27, 2013

CUMBERLAND – The executive director of the Cumberland Housing Authority has been disciplined after employees complained of her heavy-handed management style, officials say.

CHA Director Lee Ann Lamothe was placed on probation for 90 days and ordered to obtain specialized training in employee relations, said Richard S. Hilton, chairman of the Cumberland Housing Authority.
Lamothe was also placed on paid leave for 10 days while the commissioners investigated the complaints, between Nov. 21 and Dec. 9, said Hilton.

“It’s only a 10-person agency, so to say it was widespread is not a correct term,” said Hilton. “But it was more than one person. We looked into it and we found some issues that we didn’t particularly condone.”

Reached by phone, Lamothe declined to comment.

The disciplinary action was revealed in records of the commissioners’ Dec. 5 meeting that were made public for the first time just a few days ago. After going into a private session for about an hour, the board returned to open session and unanimously voted in favor of directing Lamothe to seek training with a human resources consultant. The board said it would review Lamothe’s status in 90 days after receiving a report from the consultant.

“Before I vote I have an explanation of my vote,” Commissioner Edward Mulholland said. “This is a sad chapter in the history of the Cumberland Housing Authority. The lives of several employees and their families have been adversely affected by the poor management on the part of the executive director. I hope that the action we are taking today will bring solace to the staff and restore stability to the authority. For this reason I vote yes.”

Every member of the commission was present for the vote, including Richard Conforti, Joseph Lamagna and Eugene McMahon. Also present was Al West, the commissioners’ legal counsel, and Lamothe.

During an interview, Hilton said the complaints from employees “had to do with the way they were spoken to and directed. Some employees felt they were micromanaged.” He said at least one complained of being treated in a manner that was disrespectful.

Hilton did not know the name of the human resources professional hired to work with Lamothe, but he said the person is a freelance consultant who had significant experience in corporate human resources.

Lamothe has been the executive director of the CHA for more than five years.

The agency manages 180 units of senior housing at One Mendon Road, and another 287 units of Section 8 housing.

It’s a far smaller organization than the Woonsocket Housing Authority, but the controversy surrounding its executive director is eerily similar to that of its neighbor to the north.

Robert T. Kulik, executive director of the Woonsocket agency since 2006, was placed on unpaid leave for 30 days recently amid allegations of bullying workers and making offensive remarks to female workers at the authority.

Like Lamothe, he was ordered to seek sensitivity training while he is on suspension, until Jan. 2. He will be on probation when he returns to work pending a determination of whether he has successfully completed his training, sources close to the board of commissioners say.

Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo

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