BRADENTON -- Insisting it was a misunderstanding, the Bradenton Housing Authority Board of Directors backed off Thursday from excluding interim Executive Director Darcy Branch from interviewing for the troubled agency's top job, just one day after Branch threatened to sue if she didn't get a chance.
Branch's biggest advocate for being interviewed was board member Lois Gerber, who said the board should give the acting director a "courtesy" interview.
"We put our trust in her in a very bad time and she did a great job," Gerber said.
In the same breath, however, Gerber said Branch did not meet the minimum requirements for the position, but "out of reward for doing a good job, we need to do what's right."
Branch is glad the board agreed to interview her.
"At this point, I won't be suing," said Branch. "But I
can't answer what will happen in the future. There are issues still to be resolved, and what happens will be up to my attorney."
The board last week narrowed a national search for a new executive director down to seven candidates and was expected to narrow the field Thursday for sit-down interviews with the board. One candidate, Kenneth Clark, withdrew his application after accepting another job offer, but the field remains at seven with the addition of Branch.
Gerber insisted she wasn't giving in to threats of legal action or media pressure, but said, "I wouldn't have brought this up if I hadn't had calls from newspapers and TV stations all week."
Gerber reiterated that she doesn't like the way Branch handled going to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with information about possible wrongdoing by former Executive Director Wenston DeSue.
Commissioner Norma Dunwoody and Chairman Napoleon Mills said they left last week's meeting with the impression that Branch was out of the running. Mills said it was up to the board to decide if Branch would be interviewed, while Dunwoody said the matter was already resolved.
"Last week was the proper time to bring this up," Dunwoody said. "I don't know if it was clear to you, but last week was the time to include Darcy and no one ever brought her name up. So I don't know why you are bringing it up now."
Commissioner Rigo Rivera, absent last week, said he was shocked to learn Branch had been excluded and went so far as to argue Branch should be allowed to resubmit her resume, a possible advantage the other candidates do not have. Rivera told Branch Thursday she would be afforded that opportunity.
The board also voted to change the Sept. 25 interview date due to conflicts that would have left the board with only two members present. Interviews are now scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 6 and last throughout the day.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.