Mannix About Manatee:

November 24, 2013 

How do I get a job with the Bradenton Housing Authority?

Big salaries.

Great benefits.

Generous bonuses.

Take-home car.

Two weeks off at Christmas and New Year's, plus regular vacation.

What a sweet deal.

Oh, you say, the good times are no longer rolling at the housing authority's home office? Not since the feds took down Wenston DeSue, the executive director who allegedly turned the agency into his personal ATM, and the agency faces a $400,000 deficit?

OK, then let me see if I've got this right.

There's an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into BHA's preposterous mismanagement. Yet, until it was canceled, the housing authority's board of commissioners were going to meet last Thursday to consider a three-year contract for its interim director to become the boss at an annual salary of $121,680.

What planet do they live on?

It's as if the agency and board were blithely going forward regardless of the federal probe amidst a host of profound questions engulfing the BHA about the alarming way it has been conducting its business.

No national search?

No public hearings?

No problem.

The housing authority attorney said it wasn't a contract, but a draft to "spark conversation" on what the commissioners choose to do to find the next executive director.

It has sparked conversation, all right.

Like, what in blazes is going on with the BHA?

If this situation didn't

involve overseeing housing for the disabled, elderly and poor, not to mention millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, it'd be comical.

Let's go back a few years.

When William DeSue Sr. retired as executive director in 2006 with a $133,000 salary, there was a national search for his successor and the field included 44 applicants, some of them reportedly qualified professionals.

So who did the BHA board select?

Why, DeSue's son, who had zero background in this occupation.

The absurdity didn't stop there.

The board gave DeSue Sr. a $25,000 consultant's fee to show Junior how to do his job.

Evidently, Wenston DeSue did his job well enough, especially when it came to improving his own livelihood.

After starting out in January 2006 at a tidy $108,000, his salary was an eye-popping $171,060 until the feds came calling two months ago.

How is this possible?

Who are their accountants?

Where is the oversight for this mess?

HUD officials say it's City Hall's responsibility.

City Hall says it's HUD's.

For agencies with fewer than 250 public housing units, the executive director's median salary is $47,898, according to HUD 2010 data.

The BHA has 247 units.

What's more, despite having fewer than a dozen employees, their salaries -- ranging from $163,000 to $35,000 -- are among the highest in the region, particularly for an agency with just a $3 million budget.

Which leaves me with one more question. Where's an application?

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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