BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Housing Authority set a Dec. 31 deadline for Washington D.C. ,-based Telesis Corp. to respond to a letter demanding the company honor its obligations regarding the management of the Bradenton Village Apartments.
The BHA has about 125 clients living in the public-private housing complex on 13th Avenue East near First Street.
"If there is no response, then what I plan to do is put into place the compliance monitoring plan and create what they need to submit to us the required reports on a weekly, monthly and annual basis," said BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr.
Mitchell, hired in November 2014 to turn the troubled agency around, saw an immediate issue with Bradenton Village. Residents were complaining of interior issues not being handled by Telesis' management firm, Neighborhood Partners. Under DeSue, the terms of the contract were being ignored and it took months for Mitchell to pour through more than 400 pages to discover that the BHA had more authority at Bradenton Village than previously believed.
The contract gives Telesis full management authority over BHA residents, but the BHA does have rights to monitor how that management is taking place, including financial reports. The BHA pays Telesis 95 percent of its residents' rent, totalling about $33,000 a month.
Mitchell said he believes the contract language is clear in that if Telesis does not honor its obligations, the BHA can withhold payment.
Under DeSue, the BHA had full authority to inspect its units. DeSue even hired former projects director Stephany West to do the job, "And it never got done," he said.
De Sue and West, now DeSue's wife, were convicted earlier this year theft of federal funds. DeSue was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, and West was sentenced to 5 years probation.
BHA Commissioner Norma Dunwoody, who resides in Bradenton Village, said she became aware of one public housing resident who has had their rent raised three times in two months. Mitchell said he will investigate the complaint and noted it's those kind of reasons to aggressively pursue a monitoring policy.
"We will have the right to go in and audit so cases like this can be documented," said Mitchell. "We'll have documents to collect information and make a monthly report."
Board Chairman Napoleon Mills said communication from Telesis has been sorely missing.
"If (Telesis) doesn't respond ... the repercussion is they don't get the money," Mills said. "(Telesis) will find out soon that we are not just another housing authority that is going to sit back and let that happen in the way it has in the past."
Mitchell said he would know by January's board meeting whether Telesis has responded and present a sample monitoring report to show the board what Telesis is supposed to be reporting.
The Bradenton Village Apartments in 2009 was cited for more than 140 exterior code violations that were not resolved by 2011 when the city reinspected.
Bradenton city code enforcements officials in 2011 entered into a four-year deal with Telesis to have the violations resolved, and a re-inspection this past summer showed that most of the violations remained.
The city pressed Telesis for action and the violations were cleared by the end of summer.
In other business, Commissioner Charlie Grace attended his final meeting on Thursday. After six years on the board, he will resign his position, leaving two vacancies on the board. One seat is for a resident commissioner, but Mitchell said there has been no interest from the public housing community to serve. The two seats will likely be filled by appointment early next year by Mayor Wayne Poston.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.