Bradenton Housing Authority's No. 2 official resigns

BRADENTON -- Bradenton Housing Authority Development Director Lance Clayton will give up his $110,000 annual salary effective June 29 after submitting a letter of resignation to Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr.

In a resignation letter dated Sunday, June 14, Clayton cited poor management and a possibly hostile working environment as reasons for his departure.

The letter was submitted three days after Mitchell presented a resolution to the BHA Board to restructure the staff, complete with new titles. Clayton claims he had no notification of the pending changes, but Mitchell has discussed them in open meetings.

Staff restructuring plans were expedited after Finance Director Darcy Branch resigned because of medical reasons.

Branch has been on sick leave and the agency is scrambling to shift staff duties. The goal is to save Branch's $120,000 salary by not hiring a new finance director and spending about $30,000 a year for an accounting firm, Mitchell said.

Clayton said he received notice of his job restructuring via mail Friday, June 12, stating in his letter: "You are offering me a new position with a reduced salary and that if I do not accept the new position, my em

ployment is terminated effective June 30."

Clayton said he was surprised something pertaining to his future would be sent through the mail rather than discussed in a face-to-face meeting.

Mitchell acknowledged his relationship with his staff has not been a personal one.

Clayton also claimed Mitchell has possibly created a hostile working environment by threatening to fire staff if employees talk with BHA Board members or with officials in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mitchell said he would gladly address the resignations next week, but was too busy Wednesday to discuss Clayton's letter.

Mitchell is on track with items he has discussed since arriving.

On June 11, he said a BHA development director was unnecessary because the BHA would no longer be directly involved with development, but would work with developers as needed.

He also said from the beginning staff salaries were too high for a housing authority the size of Bradenton's and too many staff members held managerial titles when they are not managers.

In December, Mitchell convinced the board to begin salary cuts as part of a cost-savings plan. Mitchell initially requested Clayton's salary be cut 21 percent, but the board eased cuts back to 5 percent across the board for the next three years.

However, the board voted June 11 to increase Mitchell's annual salary $5,000 to $139,000.

Clayton, who has been with the BHA more than 20 years, said he did not care for the executive director saying employees are only interested in receiving paychecks.

"This decision is the biggest decision I have ever had to make," said Clayton. "Most people do not walk away from a six-figure job when nothing else is lined up for them. I am putting my family's well-being at risk. We may lose our home ... and many other financial ramifications."

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