The word “complicated” has become a mantra for the Orange County committee charged with ending homelessness by 2020 as it struggles to hire its executive officer.

The county goal, which falls in line with an ending homeless initiative laid out by President George W. Bush and expanded by President Obama, is to end homelessness for military veterans and the hardcore homeless in Orange County in less than four years.

All homelessness, including that suffered by families and children, is supposed to be eradicated within 10 years.

But first, the 17-member Ending Homelessness 2020 board, along with county officials, must hire an executive director to oversee efforts by a myriad of nonprofits and county agencies. And it has to do so without spending any county taxpayer money after the first year.

One of the jobs of the new executive director will be to raise his or her own salary from outside donors and potential grants. This, of course, could raise conflict of interest issues.

The initial recruitment effort ended up not producing a recommended candidate.

Next, officials considered contracting with a private firm that would perform the duties of an executive director. But that idea was rejected in part due to concerns over who within a firm would perform the actual duties and how they would be held accountable.

On Friday, the Ending Homelessness 2020 Board agreed to another approach. But first it had to try to ensure there were no conflicts of interest because of overlapping responsibilities among some board members.

“It’s complicated,” county Deputy CEO Steve Dunivent reminded board members on several occasions as they worked through the issues.

Here is how the new system for hiring an executive director will work:

The Children and Families Commission will hire the executive director. For the first year, the end homelessness executive director will be an employee of the nonprofit OC Partnership and the Children and Families Commission will contract with the OC Partnership for the services of the ending homelessness executive director.

The first year salary will be split between the county and the Children and Families Commission.

The OC Partnership currently works to help coordinate homeless services provided by the county’s nonprofits.

The four members of its board of directors are Jim Palmer, president of the nonprofit Orange County Rescue Mission, John Luker, the Rescue Mission’s vice president of finance and compliance, Larry Haynes, executive director of the non-profit Mercy House and James Carter, chief technology officer The Integration Works technology firm.

But Palmer and Haynes also are on the Ending Homelessness 2020 board. In addition, the OC Partnership is in the process of hiring its own executive director

So the board members agreed that the OC Partnership board should be expanded to ensure that a majority of its membership isn’t on both boards. The goal is to make the OC Partnership independent of the 2020 Board.

“We’d work on simplifying the arrangement for the future,” Dunivent said Monday.


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