Vin Mannix | Search for Bradenton Housing Authority imperative

vmannix@bradenton.comFebruary 23, 2014 

Does the Bradenton Housing Authority board of commissioners get it?

Evidently not.

Which is nothing new.

Currently down to three members after one commissioner resigned and another moved, the BHA board once again wants to start contract talks to make interim director Darcy Branch permanent director, the same predisposition it had in November.

But it is also pondering a national search to fill the job.

What?

Here we are almost six months after the feds broke up Wenston DeSue's little BHA fiefdom and its commissioners continue to show the kind of foresight, leadership and vision we've come to expect throughout their stewardship.

Zilch.

A national search?

Takes too much time and it's too costly.

That's Commissioner Rigo Rivera's stance.

Don't need it.

That's what Commissioner Lois Gerber believes.

"I don't understand why we have to go through the motions of a PR campaign to do what we know is best," she said.

Really?

Such hubris is what enabled this absurd mess in the first place and made the incredibly mismanaged BHA the target of a federal investigation, not to mention the butt of much deserved ridicule and outrage here and in Washington.

Commissioners included.

To revisit, after Wil

liam DeSue Sr. retired in 2006 as BHA executive director -- annual salary: $133,000 -- a national search produced 44 candidates, many of them experienced professionals.

And who did BHA commissioners choose?

His son.

Junior was eminently unqualified, but he sure knew a good thing when he saw it.

Commissioner Napoleon Mills seems to be the only one who has a grasp of the public's profound skepticism of the BHA and the critical need for a national search -- a national search that's done right -- for a new BHA executive director.

"The community doesn't have trust in us anymore," he said.

You think?

Whether Darcy Branch would make the kind of executive director the BHA needs is open to debate.

Yes, she took the initiative to institute all-inclusive pay cuts and retrench a generous perks policy that was wholly out-of-whack under Wenston DeSue's discredited tenure.

Yes, she has spent 18 years with the agency and knows it inside and out.

Yet given the possible corruption that occurred on Wenston DeSue's watch, I'm not sure that's a plus.

The fact remains that Branch, who was financial director, benefited from the extravagant pay scale DeSure manipulated for his staff. If hired as executive director, her present base salary of $121,680 as financial chief would remain in place, but even that is almost triple the median salaries paid executive directors at public housing units comparable in size.

It will be informative to see what a forthcoming independent salary study reveals relative to what BHA employees should be making.

Meantime, a national search for an executive director must go forth.

It is imperative.

If BHA commissioners don't like it, perhaps more resignations are in order.

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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