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Housing Authority Director Fired, Former Kenton Judge/Executive to Replace

This story has been updated after an interview with Steve Arlinghaus and with comments from Mayor Joe Meyer issued through a news release.

The Housing Authority of Covington (HAC) has a new executive director after its board of directors voted Wednesday to relieve Jeff Rieck of his duties.

Former Kenton County Judge/Executive Steve Arlinghaus will be the new executive director on an interim basis.

"(The HAC boad) gave (Rieck) notice that they intended to terminate him based on certain issues and that he had the right to certain due process proceedings and they were offering him those," said attorney Stephen McMurtry, who represents the board. 

Those proceedings available to Rieck include a pre-termination hearing and a right to severance pay if dismissed without cause.

"But in this case," McMurtry said, "the dismissal was with cause."

There was no single cause, McMurtry said, but rather "a long list."

"Basically, failures to cooperate with the board, to bring certain items to the board's attention, to deliver reports, to provide discussions to the board," McMurtry said. "It's nothing that is really outstanding or anything that shows in anyway any moral turpitude, but it was just that the job was not getting done."

The vote to remove Rieck was 4-1, with Jen Allen the dissenting vote. Wednesday's vote followed a special meeting on Tuesday which involved a closed executive session to discuss the matter.

The HAC board's members are appointed by a vote of the Covington city commission, which also chooses a member from its body to serve with the board. Mayor Joe Meyer currently fills that role.

Arlinghaus will serve as interim director. He was previously Kenton County Judge/Executive from 2010-2014 and owns Arlinghaus Realty.

The Housing Authority of Covington oversees public housing and communities City Heights, Latonia Terrace, Golden Tower.

In an interview with The River City News, Arlinghaus said that Mayor Meyer approached him about a possible change coming to HAC and wanted to know if he would be interested in taking the position. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity.

"I can't get into a whole lot of details at the present moment. I met the staff this morning and what I told them is, I wanted to sit down with each one of them next week as time permits and I want to get an overview of their opinion about the direction of where things are going and where they think things should be going," Arlinghaus said. "I want to collect data before I make decisions."

Arlinghaus also said that if the position works out, he would be interested in accepting the position permanently.

"Absolutely. I would like to see how it goes," he said. "I like the direction that Mayor Meyer is going with the City of Covington. Things are really moving in a positive way and a lot of good things are happening here in Covington and he, in particular, and the commission have a lot to do with that and being a part of that positive movement is an opportunity worth giving a shot."

Arlinghaus said that his relationship with Meyer goes back forty years. "I've always had a good working relationship with him and Joe wants the city to thrive and I can tell you that, on a personal perspective, he wants what's best for the City of Covington."

Arlinghaus's new to-do list is long. "City Heights - there has been a lot of discussion about all the problems people feel that are happening up there. People living in Peaselburg and Monte Casino, there are a lot of unhappy folks that live up there that are responsible homeowners, and I know there have been some longstanding issues up there that never seem to go away," he said. "We might have some insight working together to see if there's something to help out that situation."

He also plans to address the housing agency's budget, and said he will be reviewing it closely today. He cited his work as judge/executive, where he says he dealt with a $10 million budget deficit without raising property taxes. "I've never failed at anything in my life. I wanted to be successful and wanted to turn that situation around and we did," Arlinghaus said.

Arlinghaus lost his re-election bid in the 2014 Republican primary to current Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann, who criticized Arlinghaus and the Kenton County Airport Board during a tumultuous period that resulted in a scathing audit from former Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen.

Now, in his new role, Arlinghaus will draw on his experience in both government and real estate. His rental properties have included Section-8 tenants in the past, but don't currently, he said. "Currently, I do not, but I have in the past so I am familiar with the program," he said. He views subsidized housing as an opportunity to help people get back on their feet and get elevated to a new level, he said.

In a news release issued by HAC on Thursday afternoon, Arlinghaus said, “I’m used to working with a diverse group of partners and stakeholders, and I see this as a great opportunity to build some bridges. The mission of providing housing is an extremely critical one – the impact is substantial not just on individual families but also on the City itself and frankly the county as a whole.”

Mayor Meyer did not respond to a text message seeking comment, but is also quoted in the news release. “Steve has exceptional experience, strong leadership skills, and wide-ranging knowledge of real estate, apartment management, local government, and the in’s and out’s of interacting with the federal government,” Meyer said. “He’s well-qualified and knows Covington very well.”
 
The mayor serves as chairman of the HAC board.
 
HAC has 40 full-time employees.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher