Bradenton Housing Authority to consider executive director contract

cschelle@bradenton.comDecember 17, 2013 

Officials at the Bradenton Housing Authority remain silent in the wake of a federal investigation that resulted in the removal of two officials. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Housing Authority will meet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to again consider hiring interim director Darcy Branch as its permanent director.

The meeting comes a month after BHA canceled its last meeting citing a lack of a quorum. Nothing in the agenda language and supporting documents has changed since the Nov. 20 meeting, Branch emailed the Herald Monday. The only difference is the date.

Branch is asking for a three-year contract with a $121,680 salary, according to the draft contract. She did not return a call seeking comment.

In November, BHA attorney Ric Gilmore said the contract is a draft example the board could use for a new director.

At the time, Branch requested the Herald not write anything until after the meeting in case something didn't come to fruition. On Nov. 20, the same day the Herald published the report and Branch's comments about the coming meeting, the authority canceled the meeting.

On Thursday, the first time the BHA Board has met since Oct. 17, members will address a $350,000 deficit, target policies by the previous administration that created the deficit and find a new director.

The meeting will be at 2002 Ninth Ave. E. BHA meetings are open to the public.

Branch is filling in as interim director, elevated from financial director, after the authority voted in September to fire former director Wenston DeSue and his girlfriend, Stephany West, a special projects director.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, which led to the firing, is not yet complete. No charges have been filed.

The documents and alterations presented by Branch contrast with the stated intentions of the contract.

Branch wrote to the board: "the employment contract was sent to me from Atty Ric Gilmore. He informed me that it was a standard contract, and I filled in the blanks with the information as it relates to the HACB and myself."

Nowhere in her note to the commissioners does it indicate the contract should be interpreted in any other way.

The intention, according to the attorney at the time, is to discuss the next steps and to decide on the contract in January.

Branch made $115,898 as finance director for the fiscal year ended March 31.

The proposed salary for Branch is $50,000 less than DeSue made. The salary is significantly higher than those at other housing authorities of similar size.

Branch's salary as financial director is also well above others in the area.

Bradenton Housing Authority has 247 public housing units, including 125 in Bradenton Villages. A 2010 HUD audit found housing authority directors who oversee fewer than 250 HUD units made a median salary of $42,092, while median salaries in Region 4, which includes Florida, were $44,901.

Housing authority experts at the state level, as well as HUD, said if the housing authority cannot afford to hire a search firm to find a new executive director, it should advertise the position in trade publications.

A handbook for housing authority commissioners also suggests the board could identify someone within the authority, attend a National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials conference to scout and ask for referrals from other local government agencies.

None of these steps has been formally discussed at the meetings, according to minutes.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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