BRADENTON -- It took four votes for the embattled Bradenton Housing Authority on Thursday to take the next step in hiring a new executive director in the wake of last year's financial scandal surrounding former Executive Director Wenston DeSue.
With only four board members present, three separate votes were split while considering the consultants, but a fourth vote was successful.
Gans, Gans & Associates from Plant City submitted an all-inclusive proposal for $5,500 and offered a one-year guarantee of the company's final recommendations, saying they would redo the process for free if the BHA was not happy with its recommended finalists.
Board attorney Ric Gilmore said the next step is to deliver the resumes, which have remained sealed, to the consultant. The BHA received 39 resumes, of which 18 were set aside "until further notice" because they did not meet the submission requirements established in the ad.
As of now, there is only one known applicant, act
ing Executive Director Darcy Branch, who came forward this week as the whistleblower sparked the federal investigation into alleged financial mismanagement that ended DeSue's tenure at the agency. No charges have been filed in the case.
The agency spiraled into a $550,000 debt in DeSue's final two years, but there is potential for recovery.
Rich Larson of Fallon and Larson has been auditing the BHA books for years and said the annual audit should be completed by the end of August. While it has been going "so far, so good," Larson said hiring an executive director would have a "huge impact" on the board's bottom line.
"The reserves are very low, the voucher program has zero and public housing has a little," said Larson. "You are coming off a very big operating loss last year, but with the salary reductions, this year is looking to be in a lot better shape."
Larson acknowledged DeSue's alleged financial mismanagement will likely have an impact on the board's audit and suggested board members stay involved by monitoring expenses on month-to-month basis.
Board member Norma Dunwoody questioned why the auditor didn't pick up on something during DeSue's time that would have raised a red flag.
Larson said it's not an auditor's responsibility to question "whether a contract the board approved is a good one or not. Whether I think it's good or bad is irrelevant. We will make sure those contracts were appropriately signed and approved by the board, so I can tell you that we never found one that was not appropriately approved by this board."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.