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Raleigh Housing Authority probe not on City Council agenda

Posted January 21

Steve Beam, Raleigh Housing Authority director
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— Raleigh City Council members said Tuesday they are concerned about the growing controversy over compensatory time taken by the head of the Raleigh Housing Authority, but they have little jurisdiction in the matter.

Steve Beam, the housing authority's director, has come under fire recently for the amount of time he is out of the office. The News & Observer newspaper reported that Beam had been taking nearly 11 weeks off a year with pay, some of which gave him time to pursue his hobby of magic and card tricks.

Raleigh’s mayor appoints members of the housing authority's board of directors, but the city has almost no control over the operations of the agency, which is primarily funded by the federal government. It manages 2,000 public housing units in Raleigh.

City leaders have voiced concern about Beam's activities, wondering if so much time away from work was having an impact on the agency he oversees. But when he appeared at a council meeting Tuesday to outline the housing authority's annual and five-year plans, no one questioned him about his compensatory time and the issue wasn’t on the agenda.

Several council members praised Beam for his work, and Councilman John Odom even criticized a push from Republican 13th District Congressman George Holding, who has called for a federal audit of the agency.

"I suggest we send a letter off to Washington to George Holding and (Democratic 4th District Congressman) David Price and tell them to make sure they read all the information before they come down and tell us what to do," Odom said.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she would be willing to put in a call to Washington herself.

"I might word it a little differently," she said, eliciting laughter from the council.

Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she met with the authority's board recently to share her concerns about Beam's time off and suggested the board consider term limits for agency officials and board members.

The board held a closed-door meeting last week to discuss Beam's situation, but no decisions were made.

Beam said at the time that he took 20 comp days last year, but he said they were in exchange for working weekends.

10 Comments

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  • Pensive01 Jan 22, 7:25 p.m.

    "There is a great deal of difference between taking unauthorized time off and using compensatory... View More

    — Posted by bill0

    Actually high level management positions are eligible for comp time, what they are not eligible for is overtime pay as they are classified as being exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In fact if you go to the US Dept. of Labor website you can easily find the following.
    "Compensatory Time: Under certain prescribed conditions, employees of State or local government agencies may receive compensatory time off, at a rate of not less than one and one-half hours for each overtime hour worked, instead of cash overtime pay. Law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency response personnel and employees engaged in seasonal activities may accrue up to 480 hours of comp time; all other state and local government employees may accrue up to 240 hours. An employee must be permitted to use compensatory time on the date requested unless doing so would “unduly disrupt” the operations of the agency."

  • bill0 Jan 22, 1:44 p.m.

    "There is a great deal of difference between taking unauthorized time off and using compensatory time off, which is only gained by working more than the usual 40 hours per week. "

    Except that high level management positions are generally not eligible for "comp time". They are expected to work reasonable hours to accomplish their goals. Many times, that means more than 40 hours per week. That just comes with the territory - and big salary.

  • Pensive01 Jan 22, 10:01 a.m.

    This is not a laughing matter whatsoever. They may not care, but some of us DO. Taking... View More

    — Posted by monami

    There is a great deal of difference between taking unauthorized time off and using compensatory time off, which is only gained by working more than the usual 40 hours per week. I will also point out that those workers who can only receive comp time from the extra hours they put in have a limited amount of time to use those hours as time off from work. Now whether or not using what using all of it at the same time counts as excessive or not, especially as I'm not sure what the cutoff date to lose what comp time hadn't been used up for the RHA, is more than I can say at this point. That still does not alter the fact that using compensatory time is quite clearly not taking unauthorized away from work.
    Personally I would take the view that preventing a worker from taking comp time off, especially those who are not eligible to collect overtime pay, is much more dishonest and more like stealing than what you describe.

  • Tunaboy Jan 22, 8:09 a.m.

    The good news for Mr Beam - the housing authority is performing at a consistently high level under his leadership. The bad news - his excessive comp time carries a cost and puts a burden on his staff. How much comp time and / or overtime is his staff recording? And at what additional cost?

  • ericwhiteman1 Jan 22, 8:04 a.m.

    We should be thanking Steve Beam for all the hard work he's done to keep many families off the streets. Every dime he's paid is completely worth it.

    We have baby boomers like Steve to thank for everything we have today. What a successful generation, no matter what they do, they seem to succeed!

  • tri123 Jan 21, 7:52 p.m.

    Are the 20 days of comp time being counted as "time off" in the eleven weeks? In which case he actually got six weeks of "time off."

  • monami Jan 21, 7:47 p.m.

    This is not a laughing matter whatsoever. They may not care, but some of us DO. Taking unauthorized time off, especially to such excess, equates to stealing. It's dishonest. Maybe his is not a full time job if it can be done in such compressed time. Make him part time and use the remaining money to employ someone else in another capacity.

  • Just the facts mam Jan 21, 7:28 p.m.

    What this article failed to mention is he makes a quarter of a million dollars a year in this position - which is absolutely insane!

  • ecp1951 Jan 21, 6:54 p.m.

    might be surprised to find what a proper audit might turn up.

  • ncpilot2 Jan 21, 6:30 p.m.

    Why is it laughable to question a man, getting paid by taxpayers, who takes eleven weeks a year off for another career? In my opinion, it seems there is a legitimate reason to question this man's dedication to his job. For the Council to dismiss this is another example of government arrogance out of control.