Pinellas County housing authorities continue to fracture

ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas County Housing Authority continued to fracture Wednesday in the wake of executive director Darrell Irions' quitting.

During a special meeting, authority board members learned chief administrative officer Robin Adams also plans to resign.

The board narrowly voted to keep Irions and Adams during a mid April meeting. She had been accused of trying to block an independent review of a $3.7 million joint headquarters for the county and St. Petersburg housing agencies. The project wasn't publicly bid.

Meanwhile, the Clearwater Housing Authority decided to stop providing financial and management services for the county. The county pays Clearwater nearly $245,000 a year for the work.

Why? County officials were unsure, and termination notices didn't say. But the chief of the Clearwater authority is Jacqueline Rivera — Irions' wife. She did not return a phone message.

"I guess I kind of feel like we're being wagged by the tail," board member Charles Samaha said.

With the difficulties mounting, the authority hired veteran housing attorney Ricardo Gil­more to help.

Gilmore has a history of his own. He was criticized for high billings and being too cozy with several St. Petersburg and Tampa housing authority members during a 2000 scandal that led to the Tampa executive director's conviction for bribery and conspiracy. Gilmore remains the Tampa attorney.

Gilmore disclosed the dispute to the Pinellas board and said he maintains good relationships with local and federal housing officials.

The city and county agencies are responsible for providing affordable and subsidized housing for needy people in Pinellas County. Since 2004, Irions has combined three agencies — St. Petersburg, the county and Dunedin — to try to make the programs more efficient. His methods triggered controversies, the latest over the headquarters.

Irions revealed Tuesday he would no longer lead the county agency following disputes with board members since August, when questions over the headquarters project surfaced.

Irions earned $220,500 a year running the three authorities, but is an employee of the St. Petersburg agency. Its board last Thursday backed his decision to leave the county leadership, and the city agency tapped chief operating officer Debbie Johnson as the interim director.

The county board agreed to temporarily give Irions' duties to Johnson, but held off agreeing to make her the interim director.

Pinellas County housing authorities continue to fracture 04/29/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 9:45pm]

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