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Brooksville, Hernando County housing authorities can't merge now

BROOKSVILLE — The federal government has stymied, at least for now, a merger between the long-troubled Brooksville Housing Authority and Hernando County's housing agency.

In a letter this week to local officials, the regional housing director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development explained that after a recent review of the county's housing authority operations, HUD has found the county's agency is still "troubled.''

Consolidating the two housing authorities would not be appropriate at this time, according to the July 21 letter sent from John Niesz, director of public housing in HUD's Jacksonville office.

The letter prompted members of the Brooksville Housing Authority on Tuesday to begin searching for a new executive director to replace the fired Ronnie McLean.

"We still have lots of work to do and hopefully we'll be able to get the right person in place,'' said authority board member Yvette Taylor. The board is advertising nationwide.

"We want to find someone who has adequate management skills to manage this place,'' she said. "I have a positive attitude. We just have to keep doing the right thing.''

The Brooksville authority fired McLean in May after a HUD report questioned his inspection reports, recordkeeping, staffing and budgetary matters.

Previous managers have landed in prison for defrauding the federal government. The ongoing problems had prompted a strong push from the Brooksville City Council to merge the city's and county's authorities.

Donald Singer, executive director for the Hernando County Housing Authority, could not be reached to comment Thursday on HUD's finding that his operation is still not meeting agency standards. The issue is expected to be raised during the Hernando authority's board meeting at 3:30 p.m. today.

In June, talk of the two authorities joining cooled in part because of the problems both entities face.

Hernando County Housing Authority member Paul Sullivan said the agency would be reluctant to join until the BHA resolved a number of issues, including a lawsuit that was filed by a local electrical contractor in February and the financial problems that led to its troubled status.

After last month's on-site review by HUD, Singer explained that HCHA's problem has been in its documentation of quality control in the rental assistance program known as the Section 8 Management Assessment Program.

Singer said at the time that he reviews each file for completeness and to be sure that all of the necessary paperwork is included. But in an exit interview with the HUD team, they told him they wanted more extensive documentation on various portions of the files and a better compilation of what he finds as he does quality control reviews.

He vowed then to get the files to an acceptable level of completion so that the county's troubled status could be removed as soon as possible.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Brooksville, Hernando County housing authorities can't merge now 07/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 2:19pm]
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