Former LHA director speaks to The Chronicle

Former LHA director speaks to The Chronicle
February 09
07:30 2017

Terrance Gerald of Kernersville dropped from lawsuit



On Tuesday of this week, Terrance Gerald’s name was repeatedly being uttered in a Davidson County courtroom as attorneys gave closing trial arguments in a five-year-old $25 million lawsuit against the Lexington Housing Authority (LHA) and Gerald, its former executive director.

But Gerald, now of Kernersville, was nowhere near that courtroom. The presiding judge had ruled last week that Gerald be legally severed as a defendant from the case.

He had been originally sued by five former maintenance workers who accused him of publishing “false and slanderous” statements about them in 2011 prior to their termination. However, the court sided with Gerald’s attorneys that whatever he allegedly did, if anything at all, was in his capacity as executive director then, and thus was acting as an agent of LHA, and couldn’t be sued separately.

To Gerald, the ruling was a relief, and a vindication. Despite the ruinous allegations that came at him nonstop ever since he embarked on necessary cost-cutting measures while at LHA to deliver cost-effective housing and services for residents of low-income housing, Gerald told The Chronicle in an exclusive interview this week that the only thing he was guilty of was just doing his job.

“I was brought to Lexington to basically do development,” he said, relating how, as LHA executive director, his main focus was preparing the agency for the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, a U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program that allowed public housing agencies to convert projects funded under the public housing program to a longterm Section 8 rental assistance program, complete with project-based vouchers.

“I was brought in for change,” he told The Chronicle. “That’s what the board was looking for.”

Gerald, who came to the LHA in November 2010 after being selected from over 30 candidates based on his past experience, ultimately decided to move the agency toward RAD, anticipating its passage in 2012. That meant operating with a leaner, more cost-efficient budget, and Gerald made sure that the LHA Board understood not only that their staff of 19 had to be substantially reduced, but standards for operation also had to be raised.

“I had a lot of challenges, but I was determined to meet them head-on,” Gerald said.

That also meant that longtime maintenance workers who were not certified had to go, and the maintenance work had to be outsourced to experienced, certified  vendors at reduced costs.

In court, attorneys for the plaintiffs alleged that Gerald only placed ads for maintenance bids in The Chronicle, and not in other newspapers in Lexington or Winston-Salem. Gerald counters that that isn’t true at all, and that ads were placed in area newspapers beyond The Chronicle by his staff.

Chronicle Publisher Emeritus Ernie Pitt also chafed at his African-American publication being erroneously described by plaintiff’s attorney as “a subscription-based publication … with a small circulation aimed at the black community.”

Pitt counters that The Chronicle can easily document the size of its circulation, which is not just subscription-based.

Needless to say, there were those who weren’t pleased with the dramatic changes Gerald was head-ed toward, and he believes that’s the reason why he was targeted with the lawsuit in 2012.

Despite sometimes tearful testimony in court by the plaintiffs that Gerald had slandered them calling them “dishonest,” the for-mer LHA executive director vehemently denies it. He notes that a recording of an LHA Board meeting played in court where he allegedly denounced the five workers with that term and more, actually revealed that he did not.

the recording played in court did not quote Gerald as saying anything resembling what he was accused of.

“I never slandered any-one, “I never did that at all” Gerald insists, noting that 70 percent of the maintenance budget was being eaten up by high salary costs, plus there were concerns from HUD about the rising cost of utility usage.

Today, Terrance Gerald is the chief executive officer of Haven Redevelopment Group in Kernersville, having left LHA last May, and is moving forward with housing projects now that the trial is behind him. Haven is the nonprofit outgrowth of LHA, developing housing, and overseeing construction and management.

He laments that false allegations have clouded his professional history, including false assertions about his tenure with the Durham Housing Authority, which the plaintiffs tried to use in court, but weren’t allowed to.

Ultimately, Terrance Gerald maintains that all he’s ever done is work hard to provide the best service to public housing residents in Lexington.

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