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Hillsborough commissioners slam housing chief Carroll

TAMPA — The head of Hillsborough County's beleaguered Affordable Housing Office may soon be looking for a new job.

A majority of commissioners gave housing chief Howie Carroll what amounts to a no-confidence vote Wednesday, upset that his office is in danger of losing more federal grant money.

County Administrator Pat Bean sought to assure the board that she's working with Carroll to remedy several long-standing problems in the program. But four of seven commissioners said they'd had enough.

"It seems for almost the entire time I've been here we've been talking about Howie Carroll and affordable housing," said Commissioner Rose Ferlita, who was elected in November 2006, about the same time Carroll was hired. "If Howie Carroll can't do this, he ought to resign and go sell greeting cards or something else."

Commissioners cannot direct the administrator to fire any of her employees, under the county's charter. However, such displays by the commission in the past generally have had that result, and in short order.

Asked afterward what she had taken from the discussion, Bean said, "That I need to make a decision about what I'm going to do there as to whether or not Howie Carroll continues to be employed as the affordable housing officer, or whether he doesn't."

She said she expects to make that decision soon. Attempts to reach Carroll, who was not at the meeting, were unsuccessful.

His troubles began last year, when his office lost about $2-million in federal grant money because the office missed a deadline to commit it to some county housing initiative. Carroll had been warned in advance by federal officials that he was in danger of forfeiting the money.

The county has since learned that it's in danger of having to pay back another $827,000 used to rehab three apartment complexes for failing to ensure that units there would remain affordable. In recent weeks, federal officials have said a proposed fix by the county won't suffice.

About a week ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified Carroll that Hillsborough is in danger of losing another $2.6-million if it fails to commit the money by Oct. 31.

"It appears that the county is in approximately the same position as it was last year at this time," reads the April 30 letter from HUD's Jacksonville office.

Carroll said earlier this week that he is confident he will meet this year's deadline. However, he may not get the chance.

Commissioners Ferlita and Kevin White have been voicing displeasure for months about his stewardship. White reiterated his belief that no employee should get a second chance to lose so much money.

What changed Wednesday is that Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Chairman Ken Hagan joined them in direct rebukes of how the administration has addressed problems in Carroll's shop.

"The skill sets necessary to fix that problem are not in that department," Sharpe said twice.

Hagan, not as apt to publicly dress down employees as some of his colleagues, arguably sealed Carroll's fate when he wrapped up the discussion.

"I completely agree with Commissioner Ferlita," he said. "We have got to move on. This issue is getting tiresome."

Bill Varian can be reached

at varian@sptimes.com or

(813) 226-3387.

Hillsborough commissioners slam housing chief Carroll 05/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2008 10:32am]
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