Despite accusations, housing official found new work quickly

Montele Burton
Montele Burton

Multiple women who live in public housing allege Montele Burton sexually harassed them, according to a complaint letter, interviews and an anticipated lawsuit.

Twice, Burton has been placed on “do not rehire” lists at North Carolina public housing authorities.

Yet he still works in public housing.

Burton was hired by administrators who did not check with prior employers who could have warned them.

Experts say that is an example of how public housing employees accused of sexual harassment can move from agency to agency.

When employers contact the Charlotte Housing Authority to check a job candidate’s work history, they can learn whether the agency placed the person on its “do not rehire” list.

But Hickory Public Housing Authority Executive Director Alanda Richardson said she did not call Charlotte before giving a job to Montele Burton.

That goes against practices recommended by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which says officials should thoroughly investigate the work history of prospective employees.

Burton worked as an assistant property manager for Charlotte when he resigned in September 2013 while under investigation. An agency spokeswoman would not say what prompted the investigation, but said Burton’s name was placed on a “do not rehire” list.

The Hickory public housing office hired Burton less than four months later as a temporary employee. He later was named to a permanent position as a property operations manager.

Burton denies any wrongdoing, but resigned in February while under suspension for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a tenant.

Richardson said she did not make a mistake.

She said she called references in Monroe and Conway, S.C., where Burton worked for public housing agencies earlier in his career and found no red flags.

“We asked if he performed the job duties and the nature of his duties,” Richardson said. “If there had been anything negative, there would not have been a job offer.”

Richardson said contacting Charlotte would not have been relevant. The reason, she said, is that duties of many employees at the Charlotte Housing Authority are unique because that agency operates under different regulations than most other public housing offices.

Hickory manages roughly 300 units, while Charlotte has more than 3,300 public housing units.

About five months after leaving Hickory, Burton found another job in public housing. He started in June as an assistant property manager for the Statesville Housing Authority.

Darbah Skaf, the agency’s executive director, said she was unaware of the sexual harassment accusations in Hickory when Burton was hired. Officials learned of the allegations from recent news coverage, Skaf said.

Richardson said Statesville did not call her office and ask about Burton’s work history. She said she would have told anyone that Burton is not eligible to be rehired in Hickory.

But Skaf defended the vetting process used to hire Burton. She said Burton is a dependable and skilled worker. Asked if her agency called Hickory officials, Skaf said she did not recall.

“We don’t know if the (allegations) are true,” Skaf said. “They are rumors. We cannot make personnel decisions based on rumors.”

Clasen-Kelly: 704 358-5027