Silence surrounds federal probe of Bradenton Housing Authority

jdeleon@bradenton.comSeptember 26, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Officials at the Bradenton Housing Authority remain mum about the ongoing federal investigation that so far has left two officials fired and board meeting minutes seized.

Wenston DeSue, former BHA executive director, and Stephany West, special projects manager, were fired at an emergency Board of Directors meeting Tuesday. The officials were escorted out of the building during a raid by investigators from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and FBI agents last week.

Investigators served search warrants at the Bradenton Housing Authority's main offices at 2002 Ninth Ave. E. and its offsite storage facility at 995 26th St. E.

Financial Director Darcy Branch was appointed acting director and has declined comment about the nature of the investigation.

Thursday's search warrants resulted in the removal of agency documents that included the minutes to all BHA Board meetings.

Rick Gilmore, attorney for the housing authority, also refused to comment about the investigation, however, he did say it was not unusual for board meeting minutes to be seized.

The Bradenton Housing Authority is an independent agency overseen by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Miami office. The BHA board is selected by the Bradenton mayor, however, the city has little involvement in BHA operations.

The BHA website is down due to inaccurate information posted on the site, according to Branch. The acting director said West had been in charge of managing the site and she has been too overwhelmed with duties since the investigation first broke to make the necessary changes.

Board Chairman Dr. Napolean Mills and board member Jahna Leinhauser said they are forbidden from discussing the investigation and asked that all questions be directed to Branch.

Calls to board members Charlie Grace, Rigo Rivera and Lois Gerber were not returned.

DeSue replaced his father, William DeSue, as executive director in January 2006.

Calls to DeSue have gone unanswered.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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