The Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Board has forcibly reduced the annual salary of Executive Director Al Ewing, and Ewing has agreed to stay on as an at-will employee after a showdown at the Board’s monthly meeting last Wednesday, June 27th.
Last week, Board members were taken by complete surprise when Ewing had his attorney, Denzil McKenzie of Boston, file a lawsuit over the contract dispute in Suffolk Superior Court’s Civil Division. There was some concern as to whether Ewing would stay on board in the interim, and some concern as to whether the Board would want him to stay in the interim.
This week, Board Chair Tom Standish said that Ewing has chosen to stay through the process, and that the Board is happy with that outcome.
“We extended an opportunity for Executive Director Al Ewing to continue his employment at will because he wouldn’t agree to a contract length,” said Standish. “The pay is set at $115,000, which is what we had offered. He is staying and he’s here today and we’re happy about that.”
After last Wednesday’s meeting, Standish and the Board decreased Ewing’s pay from $135,000 to $115,000 without Ewing’s agreement.
That pay rate is one of the key pieces of the disagreement that will soon be heard by a judge.
Ewing argues that his original contract – approved by the former Board – should be honored. That contract called for a five-year term at $135,000 per year.
The Board and state housing officials have said they would not honor that contract.
Ewing believes that they must.
In a last minute action to protect Ewing before the monthly meeting, McKenzie apparently filed an emergency action with the court that would have prevented the Board from discharging Ewing.
However, because the Board did not intend to relieve Ewing of his duties, that injunction was not necessary.
Attorney McKenzie could not be reached this week for comment, as he was on vacation.
Standish said that the Board is happy that Ewing has chosen to stay on while the courts determine a verdict on his contract.
“We’re happy to work with him and very pleased he is continuing on,” said Standish.