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Pasco housing authority chief resigns

DADE CITY — Dianne Morris abruptly resigned Wednesday as executive director of the Pasco County Housing Authority — the second housing chief to quit in less than three years.

Authority board chairman David Lambert said Morris approached him before a board meeting to tell him she was quitting.

Morris also sent emails to board members with a resignation letter attached.

Lambert referred further comment to board attorney Shelly Johnson, who said of Morris: "She resigned for her own reasons, and we're not going to have any further comment about it."

The board immediately appointed housing program director Linda Wright as interim executive director.

Board member Emile Laurino said he was caught off guard when he heard about Morris' decision at the board's regular monthly meeting at the Dade Oaks housing complex. He said he saw no indications she had planned to quit.

"I think it caught everybody by surprise," Laurino said, adding that he heard no explanation about Morris's decision. "It was out of left field."

Laurino said Morris was doing a good job at the agency, which oversees about $15 million to provide housing for lower-income residents.

The board hired Morris in 2012 after then-executive director Karen Turner quit amid a lawsuit in August 2011 that accused her of mismanagement and having sex with an employee at the agency's Dade City offices. Turner had been there 11 years.

A judge cleared the authority, but it faced criticism again when the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development launched an investigation into the authority's finances and management structure.

HUD's report in February 2012 cited issues with financial oversight, possible overtime excesses and high vacancy at units under the authority's management.

Morris was thought to have turned around the troubled agency. Then 61, a housing and development director in Danville, Va., she joined the Pasco authority in March 2012 at a posted salary of $87,000 a year.

Morris had previously worked for 10 years as manager of Pasco's Community Development office. She could not be reached Wednesday.

The authority is in the midst of several rehab projects. It recently launched a two-phase renovation of the Hudson Hills apartment complex and this fall is expected to start an overhaul of the Dade Oaks apartments, its largest housing complex.

George Romagnoli, Pasco's community development manager, declined to comment about Morris' decision except to say it won't derail or delay the renovations.

"I don't think anything will be slowed down at all," he said.

Pasco housing authority chief resigns 03/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 9:24pm]
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