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Pinellas housing chief avoids the ax

LARGO — The chief executive of the Pinellas County Housing Authority narrowly survived being canned in a 3-2 vote Wednesday.

The board's majority rejected putting executive director Darrell Irions and chief administrative officer Robin Adams on paid leave and barring them from the building. The vote came after four hours of tense discussions stemming from a proposed housing authority office.

But the rupture on the recently recast panel — three members attended their first meeting — left questions about how the agency can restore harmony.

"We do have disagreements, and we're going to continue to have disagreements," Irions said afterward. Of ways to improve, he said, "I think one way would be to get the board training as policymakers."

Irions, who also runs the housing authorities in St. Petersburg and Dunedin, ran into trouble over his and Adams' handling of a $3.7-million project to build a joint headquarters for the county and St. Petersburg. The current offices in Largo would be replaced with housing. Irions, who is paid $220,500 a year, has moved to combine many of the agencies functions after taking over in 2004.

Since last fall, board member Thomas Minkoff, a lawyer from Gulfport, has accused Irions of trying to grab power by misleading him and other members about meetings, records and decisions on the project.

It culminated Wednesday with Minkoff voting for new board member Joseph Triolo's proposal to oust Irions and Adams.

Triolo, a St. Petersburg community development official, said the board needs a chief executive independent of other agencies. He singled out Irions for sending a copy of an e-mail complaining about the board's role in hiring a lawyer to an official with Gov. Charlie Crist's office on Feb. 19. At the time, Crist was deciding new appointees to the board.

However, Chairwoman Angela Rouson and new member Charles Samaha voted against firing Irions and Adams. That left the decisive vote with the third new member: Cynthia Wilson, a Dunedin retiree living at the agency's Palm Lake Village.

"It was horrendous," she said of the criticism after voting against the firings.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Pinellas housing chief avoids the ax 04/15/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:53pm]
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