Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Logan’s departure leaves city homeless strategy in flux

As the city parts ways with homelessness director Doug Logan, officials are leaving the responsibility of creating a housing first apparatus to the private sector.

  • By
  • | 6:00 a.m. February 18, 2016
  • Sarasota
  • News
  • Share

Eight months after being hired amid controversy, Doug Logan is leaving his post as the city’s director of special initiatives on chronic homeless under similar circumstances.

Tasked with implementing the city’s eight-point strategy for combatting homelessness, Logan was in the process of organizing a new private nonprofit entity to run a “housing first” program.

As he worked to establish a board of directors and sought donors, he ran into an issue: the state’s open record laws. Logan was the subject of a records request for information regarding the nonprofit, alternately called NEWCO and Take Me Home.

Logan and City Manager Tom Barwin said they soon learned this could be an ongoing challenge — that state law could require the nonprofit to operate under the same transparency requirements due to Logan’s involvement, even if it wasn’t a governmental entity. The two expressed concern that those regulations would discourage private donors from getting involved in the push to address homelessness in the city.

“Most reasonable people do not want to subject themselves to what could be perceived as harassment,” Barwin said.

As a result, Logan is leaving his position and will work on the issue of homelessness as a private citizen, the city announced Friday. Barwin said the city plans to retract itself from the process of establishing a housing first program, fearing that government involvement could complicate the process.

“We need to step back for a minute and give those who are passionate about the community an opportunity to set it up.” — Tom Barwin

In a Sarasota Observer interview with Logan and Barwin, the city manager said he hoped those who had been involved with the creation of a nonprofit entity would still push forward with that cause independently.

“We need to step back for a minute and give those who are passionate about the community an opportunity to set it up the way they need to set it up,” Barwin said.

Even as his role with the city ends, Logan’s work makes the path forward murkier for both city officials and private citizens interested in creating a housing first program. At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, the board voted to disclaim interest in creating a new 501(c)(3) to run its housing first program, a move designed to counter arguments that the city had a role in creating any private nonprofits that may arise in the future.

City Commissioner Susan Chapman, an outspoken critic of Logan’s hiring, is now worried Logan’s continued involvement in the fight against homelessness could lead to further issues.

“My concern is that Doug Logan will now market himself to other agencies, which will make them open to potential lawsuits,” Chapman said.

Trouble brewing

Logan’s hiring in June — and his $120,000 annual salary — drew criticism because his previous experience did not involve work with homelessness issues. Barwin touted Logan’s ability to organize major initiatives — and raise funds — as factors that influenced his selection.

His work focused largely on creating a successful housing first program, a homelessness strategy that emphasizes placing individuals in homes as quickly as possible. Looking at other cities for guidance, Logan concluded that a nongovernmental agency would be best suited to run such a program.

In November, he briefed the City Commission on that strategy. There was some skepticism among elected officials, who questioned the lack of city oversight and the potential duplication of services with existing agencies in the community. Although there were other positive comments, the board consensus was to direct staff not to take any action regarding housing first at that time.

Logan continued to piece a new nonprofit together, though. In a January interview, he said he would announce details regarding the organization in early 2016.

Both Logan and Barwin said plans to part ways came together in the week before Friday’s announcement. The records request had led to media scrutiny, but both officials said they were more concerned that potential donors would be scared off.

“Good people doing good things shouldn’t be made to look like bad people trying to sneak around somehow,” Barwin said. “It’s not the truth, and people don’t need that distraction.”

Logan said “more than six” prospective donors expressed a similar sentiment to him. He declined to provide more details, citing an interest in preserving their privacy.

A memo from Logan dated Jan. 15 listed a series of priorities for the next 30, 60 and 90 days. There was only one goal listed under 90 days: “Train my successor.” Asked about that memo, Logan said the idea moved from an abstract conversation to an imminent reality this month.

Moving ahead

Barwin said it is uncertain whether the city will hire another employee to replace Logan. On Tuesday, the commission indicated a desire to revisit homelessness strategies at a future meeting.

In the past, the commission has expressed an interest in taking a proactive role on homelessness. Chapman, who said she is concerned with how Barwin has handled this issue, suggested the city search for a replacement that has a history with housing first.

“There are a lot of people who actually have skills and experience in this area, and I bet we could get them for less than $120,000 a year,” Chapman said. “What we need is somebody to coordinate the effort and make sure there is efficacy in the program.”

As he sought private donations for a housing first program, Logan said he heard similar desires, a change from what he was accustomed to in the charitable arena.

“The individuals that now want to give don’t want to give in the abstract — ‘Here’s a $500,000 check, go take care of the homeless,’” Logan said. “They want to know what the plan is. It’s philanthropy in a very different way.”

Barwin expressed his desire for private citizens to continue pursuing a housing first apparatus, but Logan demurred when asked about his specific plans. If he works to create a nonprofit without city help, City Attorney Robert Fournier said it’s possible — though not guaranteed — that organization would be subject to open records laws, too.

One thing is clear: After spending eight months pursuing a strategy for addressing homelessness in Sarasota, Logan doesn’t plan on stepping back from the issue.

“I have not lost my desire to devote energy to the topic,” Logan said.


Latest News