Milias: APCHA has wrong guy for job
The Red Ant
In 2020, when the APCHA board realized it needed some muscle to deal with program compliance issues on its behalf, it sought to hire an official hearing officer or two. This seemed like a reasonable first step toward compliance enforcement for a program riddled with abuse that relies on tattle-tales and anonymous tips to root out the scofflaws.
So, the housing authority solicited proposals from licensed attorneys who would conduct case hearings and written opinions in accordance with the APCHA rules, preferably with experience in municipal law, public administration law or criminal justice law. Once appointed, the hearing officer would hear and decide cases, such as appeals of notices of violations, special reviews and grievances, and would have the authority to assess and enforce penalties and fines, and/or require the eviction from or the sale of deed restricted units. The powerful hearing officer’s decisions would be final, and would not require board ratification.
Two attorneys applied for the job. One began by writing, “My primary motivation to becoming a hearing officer for APCHA is my personal commitment to fairness and a desire to participate in effective dispute resolution.”
The other was Mick Ireland. The board expressed concern about Ireland’s “local government involvement” over the years, yet he was still offered the role of primary hearing officer at $150 an hour.
The other applicant declined the opportunity to be Ireland’s back-up. Later, a secondary officer from Grand Junction was hired specifically because he was not in any way “conflicted.”
Ireland is a tax attorney who consults for land use applications and political campaigns. He describes himself as being “intimately involved with the analysis and response to this community’s housing problems since 1988.” He has served on the Board of County Commissioners and as mayor of Aspen, where he helped write the APCHA guidelines.
More recently, Ireland has served the county as a hearing officer presiding over citizen tax appeals. Despite his formidable role with APCHA, Ireland allegedly is out of compliance with his own HOA, the Common Ground Co-housing Association, a property within the APCHA portfolio.
I’ve learned about this the same way APCHA does. Someone emailed me. The Red Ant has become a repository for grievances and whisper campaigns. While curiously intriguing on some level, as problematic as some issues might seem for a program intended to house the local workforce, according to the existing rules, most surprisingly aren’t actual infractions.
In Ireland’s case, however, it’s a lot more clear. Michael C. Ireland, PC, his law office, is located at his Common Ground residence. Only recently upon being questioned, Ireland procured a required “home occupation permit” to accompany his business license from the city. The permit application specifically encourages applicants “to check with their homeowner’s association, if any, to ensure compliance with covenants or guidelines.”
Oh, oh. Right there in the Common Ground declarations are restrictions on use, specifically, that “each unit shall be used for residential purposes only and none shall be used for any commercial or business purpose.” The homeowner’s association’s insurance carrier, speaking generally, confirms that no general liability policy would cover business activities there. Furthermore, no special rider policy would cover such activities if these were not allowed in the HOA declarations. Yes, he appears to be putting his own HOA at risk.
Notified of Ireland’s questionable compliance given his deputized role to enforce such things, the APCHA team circled the wagons. Mick asserted that he has his HOA’s “permission” to run a business from home, never mind that if granted, the HOA board seems to have exceeded its legal authority by doing so. It would take an amendment of the HOA declarations by a two-thirds vote and proper filing.
APCHA’s executive director smugly pointed to Common Ground’s deed restriction that stipulates an owner “not engage in any business activity on or in such unit, other than permitted in that zone district.” Did you know “Affordable Housing” zoning allows home occupations? It does, which is a discussion for another day. No matter, though, the HOA declarations explicitly do not, and that’s what matters.
Ireland’s suspected non-compliance was dismissed by the APCHA board. They stated that if it’s allowed by the deed restriction according to underlying zoning, HOA matters are not their concern. At least when these concern the hearing officer, apparently.
Yours is another story. And Mick will likely be the one to decide.
Ireland’s contract can be cancelled for any reason. It should be. He is currently named in pending litigation that challenges his objectivity and asserts bias in an APCHA compliance case. The optics, if not the questionable legalities of his personal compliance issues with the program rules he serves to enforce, are beyond problematic for an agency desperate to gain any semblance of public trust.
If APCHA ever intends to be respected, its staff and officers should be beyond reproach.
Mick Ireland is the wrong person to lord over decisions affecting anyone’s housing. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net