Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Council refuses to confirm housing director; mayor says programs now threatened

Franchon Dickinson, center, as she and Mayor Eric Papenfuse accepted a check for the city’s lead abatement program on Tuesday morning.

Harrisburg City Council on Tuesday rejected a top administration appointment, with the mayor stating that the decision imperils key city housing programs.

By a 4-2 vote, council turned down the appointment of Franchon Dickinson as the city’s new director of building and housing, the second time this year council members had refused to confirm her appointment.

Following the vote, Dickinson, who was serving as interim department director, resigned her job with the city.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse railed against the vote, saying that Dickinson’s departure endangers two critical housing programs—the annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the city’s Lead Hazard Reduction Program.

“There is no way this can be understood as anything other than pure dysfunction on the part of City Council,” he said, following the meeting.

Council members Ben Allatt, Ausha Green, Danielle Bowers and Dave Madsen voted against the appointment, while council President Wanda Williams and Councilman Westburn Majors voted in favor. Councilwoman Shamaine Daniels was absent from the meeting.

In June, council voted 4-3 against the appointment.

Just hours earlier on Tuesday, Dickinson had hosted a city hall ceremony in which she accepted a check for $5.6 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to continue the city’s lead abatement program for five years.

Papenfuse said that Dickinson was fundamental in securing both CDBG funds and the federal lead abatement grant and that, without her leadership, both programs were at risk.

“This puts our HUD funding in jeopardy,” he said. “I don’t feel we’ll be able to implement that grant or even our CDBG funding right now.”

City Business Administrator Marc Woolley also condemned the council vote, saying that Dickinson proved her value by securing the lead program funds and rescuing the CDBG program following mismanagement.

After the meeting, Bowers said that she couldn’t discuss the issue, which she considered a confidential personnel matter. But she said that the next move is up to the mayor.

“I would hope that the administration and City Council can find some resolution to this issue, but it would be up to the administration to determine a next step to fill the role on an interim basis,” she said.

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