It took an additional year, but former Lackawanna Mayor Norman L. Polanski Jr. has ended up in a coveted job as executive director of the city’s Municipal Housing Authority.
The authority’s board of commissioners voted 6-0 on Saturday to appoint Polanski to a three-year term as head of the agency, which owns and operates three apartment complexes with 490 units and a budget of about $4 million.
The move comes 13 months after Polanski completed two terms as mayor, during which he appointed several of the commissioners who went on to hire him.
“He set this up,” said David Hardy, tenant commissioner. “Yeah, it was his soft landing.”
In late 2011, Hardy was among a group of tenants who opposed an effort by the board of commissioners to appoint Polanski as soon as his mayoral term expired.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has a policy that prohibits authorities from hiring elected officials until at least a year after the official’s term in office is finished, and the board of commissioners asked for a waiver on behalf of Polanski.
HUD ultimately denied the waiver request.
The board chose to keep longtime deputy director Robert W. McManus as interim director over the past year, allowing Polanski, 63, to seek the director’s post this month without the need of a waiver.
The board of commissioners appeared to go out of its way to make the appointment quietly.
It met for its regular meeting on Tuesday with no discussion of the executive director’s job, according to Hardy.
“It was never mentioned when we had tenants there,” said Hardy, who was elected by fellow tenants last September as a commissioner.
Two days later, Hardy received notice of a special meeting for 9 a.m. Saturday to discuss the executive director’s post.
Hardy said he did not vote against the Polanski appointment, because he hopes to improve tenant living conditions and wanted to start positively with the former mayor.
“I’m going to do my best to work with him and make it better,” he said.
Polanski will earn about $82,000 annually. He was paid $56,000 per year as mayor.
He resigned from his state job as a plumber with the Collins Correctional Center, he said. Polanski was on leave from that job during his eight years as mayor.
Polanski’s appointment is effective immediately and he will be in the office today, he said.
Michael Antecki, chairman of the board of commissioners, could not be reached on Sunday to comment.
The move from City Hall to the housing authority is not uncommon in Lackawanna. Past mayors Kathleen M. Staniszewski and Thomas E. Radich did the same thing.
In Lackawanna, the mayor has the power to appoint commissioners, and when the board applied for the waiver in 2011, five of the seven commissioners were Polanski appointees. The two others were elected by tenants.
Three of his appointments are still on the board; two others have been replaced by new commissioners appointed by current Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski.
Polanski has maintained that he is highly qualified for the housing post because of his experience running the larger and more complex city, which employs more people, has more departments and operates on a budget of more than $20 million.
“I think people realize I do have the experience for it and I was the best candidate,” he said. “I move forward and I will do the best job I can for housing just like I did for the city.”
It’s unclear who else was interviewed for the job.
Hardy said two other candidates were well-qualified and had more experience than Polanski.