Land Bank board expected to oust executive director

Brittany Jefferson Board minutes do not reflect troubles with the Land Bank director or her performance.

The newly created Omaha Municipal Land Bank has its first controversy, and it appears to have nothing to do with land.

The Land Bank board is expected to part ways with its first executive director, Brittany Jefferson, five months after voting unanimously to hire her following a national search.

The board has a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Omaha City Council President Ben Gray said he expects the board to seek Jefferson’s resignation.

“They’re pushing her out,” said Gray, who had worked with Legislature, city and business leaders to create the Land Bank.

Gray said it would be “ridiculous” to push out Jefferson. He said he could think of no good reason to do so only four months after she started work in the position.

Jefferson declined to comment in advance of today’s meeting.

Land Bank board Chairwoman Jamie Berglund also declined to comment Tuesday.

There are two items on the agenda for the meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 702 of the City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St.

One is an executive session, presumably to be closed to the public. The other item is public comments. The opportunity for comment was added at Gray’s request.

The board voted 6-0 in August to offer the post to Jefferson. At the time, she was the redevelopment administrator in the Little Rock (Arkansas) Department of Housing and Neighborhood Programs. A lawyer, she had previously worked as an assistant Little Rock city attorney.

The board later voted 4-0 to approve a three-year contract paying Jefferson $100,000 a year. At the time, Berglund, then vice chairwoman of the board, called Jefferson “a great person to be our No. 1 in this role.”

Board member Ken Johnson abstained from the vote approving Jefferson’s contract, saying that the salary was too low compared to that for similar positions in other cities.

Board minutes through December do not reflect troubles with Jefferson or her performance.

The Land Bank is funded by the City of Omaha and philanthropists. Eventually the sale of properties is expected to generate revenue as well.

The Omaha City Council created the Municipal Land Bank, and Mayor Jean Stothert agreed to contribute funding to it, to help address the chronic problem of vacant, dilapidated houses that has plagued Omaha neighborhoods for years.

The Land Bank has authority to buy or accept donations of tax-delinquent, run-down, abandoned houses, vacant lots and other problem properties, then sell them for redevelopment.

Contact the writer: christopher.burbach@owh.com, 402-444-1057, twitter.com/chrisburbach

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