Feds probe Bradenton Housing Authority, two officials fired

Herald staff writersSeptember 25, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Housing Authority executive director was fired Tuesday, along with another BHA official, in the wake of a federal investigation that broke five days earlier.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development served search warrants Thursday afternoon at the Bradenton Housing Authority on 2002 Ninth Ave. E, and at the Bradenton Housing Authority's off-site storage facility at 26th Street East, confirmed Amy Filjones, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

Housing Authority Executive Director Wenston DeSue and Special Project Director Stephany West were escorted out of the building during Thursday's raid.

Financial Director Darcy Branch has been appointed acting director.

The BHA board of directors held an emergency meeting Tuesday morning.

"It was voted on to terminate Wenston DeSue and Stephany West," Branch said. "It's an ongoing criminal investigation and I'm not allowed to give any information about it."

Local housing authorities manage public housing and/or administer housing vouchers. Some also administer Section 8 housing vouchers.

State law allows cities to form a housing authority if a shortage of safe, affordable housing for low-income residents exists. This enables the authority, a nonprofit, independent agency, to apply for state and federal funding.

DeSue became executive director in January 2006, when he replaced his father, William DeSue.

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said city officials were made aware of the investigation Tuesday and knew something was going to happen Thursday, but were not told any specifics.

"We heard they went in there and collected documents," Poston said. "I am very surprised, very curious to see what is really going on."

Bradenton police were present while the warrants were executed.

"We did it solely to preserve the peace," Deputy Chief Warren Merriman said. "We had no active part in the investigation."

HUD Office of Inspector spokeswoman Marta Metelko said agency policy forbids confirming or denying there is an investigation.

Calls to DeSue and board members went unreturned.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7-49. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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