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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Pasco Tribune

New Pasco housing chief at least 6 months away

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It could six months or longer before the Pasco County Housing Authority gets a new executive director on board to replace Dianne Morris, who abruptly resigned last month.

The authority board hired Morris in 2012 after the previous director resigned in the midst of a corruption scandal. At the time, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was threatening to take over the agency’s properties.

Morris, who had ties to Pasco County, was one of only two qualified candidates who agreed to interview for the job, which paid well below the market average for similar positions.

Chairman David Lambert said the agency is in better standing with HUD and in better financial condition.

“Now we’re in a different boat, a different situation, and we can afford to pay enough to get a decent person,” Lambert said.

Authority members approved the job description Wednesday and set the application deadline on June 30.

But they won’t be able to schedule interviews until August because they won’t have a quorum for the July meeting.

The housing authority is appointed by the governor and should have five commissioners, one of whom should be a tenant. Gov. Rick Scott has never appointed a tenant commissioner, leaving the board with four members.

Commissioner Emile Laurino continued to serve even though his term expired last September, but he’s moving out of Pasco County — leaving another seat open.

And Commissioner John Finnerty said he will be out of the county for much of the summer, forcing the board to cancel its July meeting.

Lambert said he agreed to serve again after his initial term expired, but he hasn’t been able to recruit anyone to replace Laurino, the only board member who lived in west Pasco.

“We need someone on the west side to step up and volunteer to be a good commissioner,” he said.

In other business, the board discussed how to compensate interim Executive Director Linda Wright, who also heads the agency’s housing programs. Wright also served as interim director in 2012 after former director Karen Turner resigned.

“I think we set a precedent last time by paying her while she did two jobs,” Commissioner Ed Blommel said.

The commissioners agreed to pay Wright the same bonus — around $1,200 a month — as her previous stint. But Lambert said the authority couldn’t afford to adjust Wright’s pay while Morris’ salary is still on the books. Morris received a severance package that included six months salary and full benefits when she resigned in March.

“I think we should wait until Linda finishes her job as interim and give her a one-time bonus,” Lambert said. “Her job will end when the new executive director starts work.”

Lambert said he had discussed the arrangement with Wright, and she agreed to accept a lump sum payment.

lkinsler@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1852

Twitter @LKinslerTBO

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