Columbia councilman: ‘Resignations are in order’ in Allen Benedict Court apartments ‘tragedy’

Moe Baddourah calls for CHA Executive Director's resignation

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Columbia City councilman is demanding accountability from the Columbia Housing Authority following the displacement of more than 400 residents from the Allen Benedict Court Apartments and two were found dead.

Councilman Moe Baddourah wrote a letter to the Columbia City Council and Mayor Steve Benjamin, saying “a resignation or resignations are in order, including the resignation of the Authority director.”

In his letter, Baddourah says the death of two residents - Calvin Witherspoon, Jr., 62, and Derrick Caldwell Roper, 31, both of Columbia - left him disheartened “to learn just how preventable this tragedy was.” More than 400 residents representing 200 families have also been displaced after the apartments were closed.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office and other officials have not confirmed that Witherspoon’s and Roper’s deaths were because of the gas leak.

“It’s important to have confidence in the Authority’s leadership during the process of finding accommodations for those who have been displaced. Furthermore, citizens should have the peace of mind that adequate accountability is in place to prevent a similar tragedy in the future,” the letter concludes.

The Columbia Housing Authority released a letter on Wednesday, stating that they are committed to helping the residents during this time.

“Director Walker and his staff are committed to taking care of all CHA residents, particularly those displaced by this shutdown. This situation is unfortunate, and we are working with the City of Columbia to find the best possible resolution for all residents involved,” says CHA attorney Bob Coble.

You can read Baddourah’s full letter here:

To all my fellow council members: We were all saddened to learn about the deaths of two of our residents last week at the Allen Benedict Court apartments. It was especially disheartening to learn just how preventable this tragedy was. That residents remained in the apartments despite a number of complaints about gas leak smells indicates, at the very least, negligence. Frankly, someone must be held accountable. While City Council lacks direct oversight over the Authority, we do have indirect oversight through the selection of Commissioners. I propose a special City Council meeting to discuss our options for imposing accountability. Personally, and after very careful consideration, I believe a resignation or resignations are in order, including the resignation of the Authority director.  It’s important to have confidence in the Authority’s leadership during the process of finding accommodations for those who have been displaced. Furthermore, citizens should have the peace of mind that adequate accountability is in place to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
Moe Baddourah - Columbia City Councilman, District 3

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