Renee Glover, who transformed Atlanta into a national model for public housing but also drew scrutiny for her $325,000 salary, resigned Tuesday as head of the city’s housing authority.
She had 22 months remaining on her contract. Her severance package, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls for her to receive one year’s salary plus $89,600 in consulting fees, for a total of $414,600. In addition she will receive up to $20,000 for reimbursement of legal costs incurred by her during negotiations leading to her resignation and up to $5,000 for expenses incurred by her in looking for a new job.
Glover led the housing authority for 19 years and is credited with moving poor residents into mixed-income developments and creating partnerships with private real estate developers. She was highly regarded for her work, earning national plaudits and awards from housing advocates and political leaders.
But while Glover, 63, earned praise in some quarters for demolishing crime-ridden housing projects, critics lambasted her for contributing to gentrification in the city, driving the poorest residents away by reducing the stock of low income housing.
AHA’s board of commissioners accepted Glover’s resignation Tuesday, effective immediately. She’s agreed to stay on for 90 days to help the agency transition to new leadership.
Glover’s departure has been rumored for months. She drew the wrath of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, when in 2010 the AHA board extended her lucrative contract for five years, effectively limiting his ability to replace her.
Reed had just arrived at City Hall and wasted no time installing a trusted supporter, Daniel Halpern, as head of the board.
On Tuesday Reed issued a statement thanking Glover for her service and wishing her well.
Glover was, at one time, the highest paid public housing executive in the nation.
Records show that in 2010 she collected $644,000. She argued the figure was closer to $588,000 and said even that smaller figure was inflated by unused sick and vacation time, performance bonuses and deferred compensation.
The salary helped spark local and national outrage, with executive pay at housing authorities soon becoming a national issue. Last year, HUD announced a $155,000 cap on what the federal government will pay for executive salaries.
Glover’s base contract sets her annual salary at $325,000 and she is eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to $35,000.
In April, The AJC reported that Glover also surrounded herself with well-paid subordinates. Records obtained by the newspaper showed 10 percent of AHA employees earned more than $150,000 a year and nearly 20 percent earn more than $100,000. Those salaries are well above most of the nation’s other public housing authorities. Top AHA staff were also paid bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Glover defended the salaries, telling the AJC it was a mistake to compare AHA’s salaries to other agencies because the private-public nature of Atlanta’s housing model make its work unique. She also said that to attract top talent she must pay salaries competitive with the private sector.
Still, the AJC report attracted the attention of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who demanded more records from AHA detailing travel and other expenses. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican said Tuesday those records have not yet arrived.
When Glover, a corporate finance attorney, took over, the agency was in financial disarray and most authority clients lived in housing projects.
Glover believed that keeping residents isolated in pockets of poverty was counterproductive and pushed to mainstream residents with residents in different income brackets.
In an opinion piece published in August, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin wrote that Glover’s salary was a good investment, considering what she was able to do to transform the city. Franklin said in 1994, when Glover took over AHA, it “teetered on insolvency.”
“Once known as the most violent city in America, Atlanta today is known for its thriving mixed-use, mixed-income communities,” Franklin wrote.
AHA’s investment in its staff and leadership has saved the city millions, has leveraged tens of millions in new investments, and has added to the city’s tax base, Franklin wrote.
But Atlanta resident Joe Beasley, the southeastern regional director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Tuesday that while he considered Glover a “nice lady,” he was glad that she was finally leaving.”
“I call her the gentrification queen. She bought into the idea that there were too many poor people in Atlanta. She bought into the hands of the power elite,” Beasley said. “She drove poor black people out of Atlanta.”
Beasley said Glover’s use of mixed-income housing was detrimental to the poor people who previously lived in public housing. He said they were never able to qualify to return and were scattered throughout metro Atlanta.
He said although it de-centralized poverty, it weakened Atlanta’s political base.
“We fought hard get political influence and Renee destroyed it.”
In a statement, the AHA board said it would launch a nationwide search to replace Glover. In the interim, she will be succeeded by Joy Fitzgerald, AHA’s chief real estate officer.
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