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Embattled Providence Housing Director Earned Over $240,000 in 2010

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

 

The executive director of the Providence Housing Authority earned more than double the salary of the average housing authority executive in 2010, according to a report released this week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Now the Obama administration is calling for an expansion of the cap on salaries for housing officials across the country implemented by Congress last year.

Stephen O’Rourke, who currently sits on paid administrative leave pending both an internal and federal investigation into claims he sexually harassed several female employees and mismanaged federal funds, earned $198,610 during the 2010 fiscal year, according to HUD spokesman Jerry Brown. O’Rourke earned another $21,841 in “other compensation” and $23,806 is benefits, which raised the total compensation to $244,257.

According to HUD data, the average executive earned $82,299. Only three percent of housing authority directors across the country made more than $155,500, the report said.

Under Obama’s plan, executive’s salaries would be capped depending on the size of the housing agency. In Providence’s case, the director could earn a maximum on $155,000 annually. The plan would also close a loophole that allows for “excessive pay through bonuses.”

The report found that while the majority of salaries were on par with directors in other similar-sized nonprofits, "there are outlier PHAs that pay certain employees a level of compensation that is clearly excessive."

The highest paid director in the country was the head of Atlanta’s public housing agency, who earned $644,214, according to the Associated Press.

O’Rourke has led Providence Housing since 1987 and is credited with turning around an agency that was nearly insolvent into one of the top-performing housing authorities in the country. The $45 million operation was running a $3 million surplus as of April, O’Rourke said at the time.

But the executive director ran into trouble earlier this year when a whistleblower employee wrote a 37-page complaint describing her five-year tenure as the PHA’s executive administrative officer as “hostile, offensive and extremely stressful.”

The employee, Elizabeth Herosy, claims O’Rourke has squeezed her hips at work, bent another woman over a desk and has consistently made inappropriate comments to female workers. She also claims he kept pornography on his computer and favored a select group of employees.

After her complaint, two former female employees came forward with similar tales of O’Rourke’s inappropriate behavior.

But O’Rourke, who has earned national praise for his work at the agency, has completely denied any wrongdoing. During an April interview with GoLocalProv, he labeled Herosy a “disgruntled employee” and said he believes he will be cleared following the investigation.

Since the original complaint, the chairman of agency’s board of directors has resigned.

The results of the internal investigation are expected to be released later this month.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected].
 

 

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