NIAGARA FALLS - Stephanie Cowart is out as executive director at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority (NFHA). Just, not right away.
In a letter written Monday, Cowart let the agency's board of directors know her retirement would be effective March 22nd, 2017
Cowart noted in the letter that she has "enjoyed serving the residents of the NFHA for thirty-three years" and she looks "forward to the Authority's continued success".
Upon her retirement, Cowart will continue to get health insurance paid for by NFHA, as outlined in her current employment contract. She will also continue to collect her salary, as she has been since being placed on administrative leave in late July.
2 On-Your-Side was first to report that with salary and bonuses, Cowart earned nearly $144,000. According to data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Cowart is by far the highest paid executive at any of the public housing agencies in the eight counties of western New York.
That coincided with the news the FBI was investigating the agency. Sources tell 2 On-Your-Side that Cowart appears to be only person-of-interest in that probe.
Cowart's retirement was accepted by the NFHA board Tuesday night. The resolution approving Cowart's departure also notes the long-time executive director will not receive addition compensation from accumulated sick days and vacation time.
In a brief statement, NFHA board chairman Kevin Dobbs said, "Ms. Cowart’s decision to retire without returning to work at the Authority will allow the Board to begin its search for a new leader immediately and will allow the Authority to move forward without unnecessary distractions."
Cowart's retirement appears to also end the board's own independent investigation, launched at the time Cowart was placed on leave.
An NFHA spokesman tell 2 On-Your-Side the investigation in incomplete and it is unlikely the board will continue it.
Asked if Cowart's retirement was somehow negotiated by the agency's board, the spokesman declined comment.