John Griffin, March 2021
John Griffin, executive director since 2007

UPDATED: The Arlington Housing Authority (AHA) board opened its Tuesday, April 27, meeting with a surprise announcement: Executive Director John Griffin had requested an immediate leave of absence. 

One of the 39 attendees to the virtual meeting was Jack Nagle, formerly the operations manager, who was tapped to serve as interim executive director.

Details of Griffin’s leave of absence were discussed during a closed session at the end of the regular public meeting, as announced beforehand.

Brian Connor, new chairman of the AHA Board of Commissioners, told YourArlington on April 30 that board voted unanimously in closed session to approve Griffin’s request for a three-month leave of absence, effective immediately. 

The board also voted unanimously to appoint Nagle to interim executive director.

A reason for the leave was not provided. Also left unanswered is whether Griffin will be compensated during the leave and whether Nagle will hold both his operations position and the interim director.

Griffin, a longtime Arlington resident who attended Arlington Catholic High School, has been executive director since 2007.

Nagle has been with the authority for two years previously working for the Commonwealth in the Department of Transitional Assistance. He has a master of public administration from the University of Massachusetts – Boston. He also served in the U.S. Army as a team leader in the cryptologic linguist unit in Wiesbaden, Germany.The Housing Authority, which operates independently of town oversight, administers several housing-assistance program that provide direct housing in government-owned developments as well as subsidized housing in privately-owned dwellings for seniors and persons of low or very low income.

Nagle has been employed by the AHA since November 2018 as one of its property managers. "We are very pleased with Jack’s accomplishments during his employment at the AHA and are confident in his ability to fill in as the Interim Executive Director during this time period," Connor wrote April 30.

Board elections

The Housing Authority meeting opened with the annual-meeting agenda and the election of Connor as chairman to replace Nick Mitropoulos.

Resident Regina Pontes questioned naming Connor chair. She said that as an unelected official, his role as chair would compromise his impartiality. Board attorney John Greco said that Connor’s role as the governor’s appointee to the board did not disqualify him for the role of chair, as per state law.

 Jo Anne Preston was nominated board vice chair, and Gaar Talanian was renominated treasurer role. All positions were approved by unanimous consent.

Mitropoulos, a 20-year board member, thanked the community in reelecting him to another five-year term on the board.

The meeting was called to order with all five board members in attendance, as well as the tenant association presidents for Winslow Towers and Drake Village. More than 30 members of the public also joined the virtual discussion.

Public comment yields questions, concerns

The regular meeting opened with general public comments and concerns. Resident John Ward expressed discontent that of the roughly 30,000 registered Arlington voters, 6,000 actually voted on April 10, with just over 3,000 of those votes electing the townwide winning candidates. He decried the lack of “representative democracy.”

Cathy Spencer, Drake Village tenant association president, congratulated Mitropoulos, and said a “win was a win,” with Mitropoulos doing an “outstanding job” for the community. She asked the board to consider naming the community room at Drake Village the “Daly Room,” after longtime residents Joe and Janet Daly, who died two days apart this past February.

Arlington Housing Authority logo
Elizabeth Dray asked whether 'the tenant outreach in advance of [a tenant association] meeting [would] be done in all of the languages that are spoken by the residents of Menotomy Manor.'

Connor tabled this conversation to the May meeting. This honor would be in addition to the board voting to name the Menotomy Manor Life and Skills Center the Daly Community Center during the March meeting.

Pam Houser, Winslow Towers tenant association president, asked the board to extend the free washer-and-dryer services past the June deadline. Connor said that issue would also be on the agenda for the May board meeting. She also mentioned that organizing meetings of the building’s tenant association had been difficult, given that 17 of the 132 apartments had turned over since last March.

Hauser also noted that the windows replacement at Winslow Towers was two weeks behind schedule (contractor was to start the project April 5) and asked for a schedule update. Nagle said that contractor concerns had been addressed and work would begin shortly.

The tenant association presidents for Chestnut Manor and Cusack Terrace were not present for this meeting, and a potential Menotomy Manor tenant association is pending formation.

Questions about forming Menotomy Manor tenant association

A Menotomy Manor resident expressed concerns about the authority’s ability to promptly fill vacancies in the complex. She said from four to seven townhomes were vacant, and suggested that the process for application and availability could be communicated better to the community. Interim Director Nagle said the authority was limited by state guidelines, but he would be happy to discuss this issue with her offline.

Greco’s report to the board about state guidelines regarding organizing a tenant association at Menotomy Manor was not on the board’s agenda. Resident Elizabeth Dray asked whether “the tenant outreach in advance of [a tenant association] meeting [would] be done in all of the languages that are spoken by the residents of Menotomy Manor.”

Board member Jo Anne Preston suggested that children of parents who didn’t have English proficiency could translate the information that the board would send out to the residents. Dray pushed back on the meeting's chat function: “In my experience, it’s not the role of the family member to interpret for the family. [The board] should hire someone to do it correctly,” and asked whether “interpretation will also be available during the [organizing] meeting” in all the representative languages.

Board member and Menotomy Manor resident Fiorella Badilla said the board was looking at embedding QR codes in fliers that would direct residents to the language of their choice in order to read organizing meeting notices.

May 15 tenants' meeting

Preston announced a planned Zoom meeting for all the tenants with Jack Cooper of the Mass. Union of Public Housing Tenants, an organization that subcontracted by the Department of Housing and Community Development to furnish information to local housing authorities and to public-housing tenants.

The virtual meeting is tentatively planned for 1 p.m., Saturday, May 15. It is for tenants only, and they are to receive a leaflet next week giving them full information about access.

Preston said she told the meeting that the state had detailed guidelines, which must be followed to form a tenants' association.

Public info lacking on website

Dray asked when meeting minutes for 2021 and the operating budget would be available on the website. In the March meeting, Greco said, “it’s public information, essentially, and people have the right to see it . . . there’s nothing wrong with putting it on the website.”

Connor said the webmaster duties were done by a contractor, and that coordination in posting information to the website was difficult.

Covid vaccine update

Nagle said that the second round of Covid vaccines were administered to the senior housing residents the week of April 12.

The board unanimously approved the meeting minutes from March 23, and voted to adjourn to a closed session to discuss Griffin’s leave of absence.


See the ACMi video of the April 27 meeting:

March 30, 2021: AHA board fields tenant representation, Menotomy Manor issues


This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Melanie Gilbert was published Friday, April 23, 2021. It was updated the same day, to add Preston's election and information about a tentants' meeting.