BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Housing Authority board of directors will begin reviewing 39 applications this week from people wanting to lead the scandal-ridden agency.
The need to find a new executive director came after last year's investigation of alleged financial mismanagement by Wenston DeSue, former BHA executive director, and his girlfriend and co-worker Stephany West, former BHA special projects manager. The investigation, which included a raid by agents with the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development almost a year ago, continues as no charges have been filed in the case.
HUD spokeswoman Marta Metelko said agency officials could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
When the board voted in May to look for a new executive director, acting Executive Director Darcy Branch, who was the financial director under DeSue, argued to remain as executive director. Branch said she has moved the BHA forward from the DeSue scandal and could perform the duties of both positions while maintaining her $121,000 annual salary as finance director. She said doing so would save the BHA an estimated $140,000 salary for a new executive director.
"Another salary would deduct from the bottom line, and that money should be going to capital improvements, which we haven't been able to do since 2006," she said. "There are roofs and plumbing on our units from the 1970s. A lot needs to be done as we continue to recover from the prior leadership."
Branch has applied for the executive director job.
"I applied because I think I'm the best person for the job," said Branch. "I hope a decision can be made fairly quickly so the housing authority can get back on track. It's been going very smoothly since the DeSue situation, and we've done everything we can to set everything right."
When the board voted to conduct the search, it decided all resumes were to remain sealed until the board meets Thursday, when the board and staff will see who has applied.
Branch said it's a process that she has not seen done before.
"All I know is that the board was clear on how applications were to be received," she said. "Either by certified U.S. Postal Service, UPS or Fed Ex, so the applications could be tracked. Only 21 were mailed correctly, so the first thing the board will have to do is to vote on whether or not to accept all of the applications."
From there, the board will likely begin to sort through candidates to see if they match the job requirements, which include having a college degree in business administration with housing authority experience, or at least 10 years of experience with housing authority and Section 8 experience.
BHA Board Chair Napoleon Mills said he is keeping an open mind.
"I'm not going into this particular meeting with expectations," he said. "We just want to take a look at who has applied, go from there and take it one step at a time."
Mills said it's likely the board will hold additional meetings over the next couple of months to expedite the review process and begin to develop a short list of candidates.
"I don't want to stretch this out," he said. "I want to get someone in place as soon as we can, but make sure it's the right person."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014