Bradenton Housing Authority narrows executive director search to 7; interim director cut

BRADENTON -- The troubled Bradenton Housing Authority narrowed its national search for a new executive director down to seven candidates at a Thursday special meeting, most notably eliminating acting Executive Director Darcy Branch from consideration.

The seven finalists:

Kenneth Clark, president, Sycamore Business Solutions, Atlanta.

Stanley Lowe, executive director, Economic Opportunities Planning Association of Greater Toledo Inc., Toledo, Ohio.

Ellis Mitchell Jr., assistant executive director, Queen Anne's County Housing Authority, Centreville, Md.

Teresa Pope, deputy executive director, New Smyrna Beach, Housing Authority.

Benett "Ben" Washington, executive director, Vicksburg, Miss., Housing Authority.

Nancy Wesoff, president/director, LOMOD Corp., Housing Authority of Los Angeles.

Richard Yerington, administrator/executive director, Muscatine Municipal Housing Authority, Muscatine, Iowa.

Branch has led the scandal rocked agency since October 2013 when federal agents from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General's office and FBI raided the office and placed Wenston DeSue, former executive director, under investigation for financial mismanagement. No charges have been filed and Branch, who served as financial director under DeSue, later revealed she was the whistleblower who triggered the investigation.

Branch said Thursday she thinks her revelations are why she was not selected as finalist.

"I was told by a board member present today that I would not be selected as executive director because I am the whistleblower," said Branch, referring to an email from board member Lois Gerber in July saying Branch should have violated HUD instructions not to inform the BHA Board the agency was being investigated.

Gerber called Branch's ac

tions "self-serving and inappropriate. You protected yourselves and threw us to the wolves."

Gerber threatened to resign from the board if Branch was hired.

"Obviously, loyalty and longevity doesn't count when it comes to this board," said Branch, who declined to comment if she would remain with the BHA or potentially pursue legal action against the board.

Gerber wasn't the only board member to reject Branch as a finalist. New board member Norma Dunwoody also made it clear she would never recommend Branch, saying she should have known more as DeSue's financial director.

BHA Board Chairman Napoleon Mills also did not choose Branch as a finalist.

Board members Charlie Grace and Rigo Rivera were absent.

According to board consultant Simone Gans Barefield of Gans, Gans & Associates of Plant City, 146 people applied for the position from across the country. She submitted 12 applicants who properly submitted all criteria asked for in the application process as the strongest candidates.

Branch made the top 12 while BHA Development Director Lance Clayton, who also applied for the job, did not.

At the board's next meeting Thursday, members are expected to narrow the field to three to four candidates and schedule face-to-face interviews Sept. 25.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.