Based on a glowing recommendation, Pinellas County commissioners in April unanimously appointed developer Roger Broderick to the board of a county agency that promotes affordable housing.
Broderick's experience will be "immensely beneficial'' to the Pinellas Housing Finance Authority, its executive director and chairman wrote in a memo to commissioners.
What the memo didn't say: Broderick owes nearly $90,000 in delinquent county property taxes. And he has more than two dozen properties in foreclosure, including land once slated for a county affordable housing project.
"We certainly were not aware of that,'' Commissioner Susan Latvala said of Broderick's financial problems. "His name shouldn't have come forward.''
Commissioner Ken Welch said, "It certainly would have weighed on my decision'' had he known.
Broderick acknowledged this week that he has not paid taxes on at least 44 houses and commercial properties in Pinellas Park, Seminole, Largo and St. Petersburg.
He also acknowledged that C1 Bank has foreclosed on a $1.5 million loan for his Bayside Reserves project, once planned for 23 acres on Old Tampa Bay near the south end of the Bayside Bridge.
"Unfortunately, we are developers and we struggle with the economy as a lot of developers have,'' Broderick said. He did not tell the housing finance authority about his financial woes "because I don't think anyone asked.''
Now 69, Broderick said he once "owned more land than anyone else in Tampa Bay'' during a real estate career spanning 40 years.
In 2008, county commissioners gave the go-ahead for Bayside Reserves despite opposition from the Pinellas County Planning Council and others who charged it was a poor fit for an already congested area. The project would have included 193 apartments, with 39 set aside as affordable, and 37 single-family waterfront homes to be sold at market cost.
The commission also agreed to donate nearly 9 acres of county-owned land to the project.
Commissioners did not know until after their vote that Broderick owed $47,779 in taxes on various properties. He paid after a reporter asked about the arrearages, but Bayside Reserves never got off the ground because of the recession and housing bust. The bank started foreclosing on Broderick's land in 2011.
He still owns nearly 100 properties in Pinellas. More than half are current on taxes but 44 others are so delinquent that the county issued tax certificates to get its money.
Investors bid for the certificates and pay the delinquent bills. Property owners have two years to pay the taxes plus up to 18 percent interest, and the county forwards the payment to the investor.
Broderick said he is selling some property and hopes to pay all of the delinquent taxes by year's end.
This spring, he applied for one of two open, unpaid seats on the board of the Housing Finance Authority. The authority sells bonds to help finance affordable housing projects and assist first-time home buyers.
Broderick, who has successfully developed affordable housing, said board member Norris Counts invited him to apply. Counts would not comment, but chairman Rodney Fischer said Broderick "has a lot of experience to offer the board'' and shouldn't be precluded from serving just because he's late on his taxes.
"I think we'd have requested an explanation as to why he was in that kind of situation, but I do know that the business of developing property is a very tough business,'' said Fischer, a contractor.
Four other applicants told the Tampa Bay Times they were surprised they were not contacted for interviews.
"I thought there would be more to the process than just filling out a one-page application,'' said Michael Bindman, a Realtor.
Instead, Fischer and Kathryn Driver, the authority's new executive director, sent county commissioners a memo recommending Broderick and Robyn Fiel, a mortgage loan originator. The commission approved them April 1.
"Most of us have known Roger for years, and he was a very successful contractor and developer who had done low-income affordable housing,'' Latvala said.
She said she probably would have voted against Broderick's appointment if the delinquent taxes had come to light. In the future, the commission might require taxes "to be up to date if you want to serve on any of our boards and committees,'' she said.
Broderick said he wants to stay on the Housing Finance Authority board. The authority is looking for someone to develop affordable housing on the same county-owned land that was to be part of his now-defunct Bayside Reserves.
"The only reason I volunteered to be on this board,'' Broderick said, "is because I think I can make a difference for this county and affordable housing is the key.''
Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8602. Follow @susanskate.