Reasons behind Summit Combine Housing Authority leadership shake-up unclear
October 10, 2016
A leadership shake-up at the Summit Combined Housing Authority could lead to potential litigation, according to sources familiar with the issue.
For reasons that are not yet clear, the housing authority's executive director, Jennifer Kermode, is no longer at the helm of the governmental entity that since 2006 has been charged with administering millions in sales-tax revenue for the county's workforce housing needs.
Kermode, who led the authority for nine years, left the position on Wednesday, Oct. 5. She is reportedly at odds with the organization's board of directors.
The two sides are presently negotiating Kermode's exit. According to sources, Kermode first contacted a lawyer this summer over a deteriorating work environment. She wrote a letter for the board listing a number of concerns on Sept. 21. That letter, which the Summit Daily has yet to review, was ultimately received by the board as her resignation.
The board decided at a special meeting on Sept. 27 to name Nicole Bleriot, the recently hired county housing director, as Kermode's replacement on an interim basis until after the November election. An email sent to Kermode's business contact on Oct. 6 returned an auto-reply stating that inquiries for the executive director should be directed to Bleriot.
Kermode is currently away on vacation and could not be reached for this story. The potential litigation with the county may also preclude her from speaking until the two parties are able to resolve the issues between them.
The authority's board was until recently made up of one member of county government and a representative from each of the four partner municipalities. The governing document for the organization was updated this summer, though, adding alternates for each of the five positions, before each later became voting members. The board is presently comprised of County Commissioner Thomas Davidson and county manager Scott Vargo, Breckenridge town manager Rick Holman and long-range planner Laurie Best, Frisco Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi and town manager Bill Efting, Silverthorne Councilwoman JoAnne Nadalin and town manager Ryan Hyland, and Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns and town manager Tom Breslin.
A request for an interview with Thomas Davidson, the chairman of the board, was declined based on the advice of county attorney Jeff Huntley. Huntley confirmed by email that he had advised his clients not to comment at this time.
However, according to Vargo, the board met during a special meeting in July to explore restructuring the agency. Kermode was not present at that meeting for reasons that cannot be confirmed at this time. That led to the appointment of the county's community development director, Jim Curnutte, as Kermode's direct supervisor later this summer.
"For a number of years we had sort of this rotating managers arrangement with Jennifer," said Vargo. "One or two of the town managers would provide pretty limited day-to-day-type supervision. The board felt that it was better for her to have a more structured supervisory relationship."
When the board met for its regular July meeting about a week later to update the governing document, it added language to its bylaws stating that housing authority officers — including Kermode's position as executive director — would now be reviewed and re-appointed annually. The board's chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer are also listed under that new clause. And because of the new hierarchy, the letter Kermode submitted for the housing authority's board of directors went through Curnutte.
Moving forward, Bleriot will balance a small workload from her still fresh housing director role while also learning the ropes of the temporary job. The oversight of Huron Landing, the joint county-town of Breckenridge apartment complex, will continue under prior county and town staff, and the Lake Hill master plan should also be out in the coming weeks. Curnutte, Bleriot's direct report in the county's community development division, will also continue to lend support at the housing authority's Breckenridge office.
In the meantime, the county and its municipalities await voters' decision this November on ballot measure 5A. If approved, it would grant upwards of $8 million each year over the course of a decade to construct workforce housing. That funding question is posed through the housing authority, and, many acknowledge, the timing of Kermode's departure is far from ideal.
"I would say it was a surprise," said Vargo. "We were not anticipating her leaving, that's for sure."