The search for a new executive director at the Pasco Housing Authority needs to focus on an attribute that has been in short supply at the troubled agency — serving the public.
A group of recent gubernatorial appointees are now overseeing the authority and they are rummaging through the aftermath of the past administration's misplaced priorities that put a premium on benefitting a personal acquaintance over helping the needy to get decent housing.
As Times staff writer Lee Logan reported, a preview of an upcoming audit shows the agency did a poor job of repairing and readying its apartments for new tenants. The agency said it was short on cash although in early 2008 it could afford to pay $11,500 in overtime for remodeling and a nearly round-the-clock paint job at its administrative headquarters. And the overtime payments went to an employee accused of being romantically involved with the now former director, Karen Turner. She resigned in September after news accounts of a whistle-blower lawsuit that alleged fraud, bribery and falsified time sheets.
The publicity from the lawsuit sparked state calls for greater oversight of the authority's professional staff and a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development audit of the agency's spending and management practices.
Already, the review found the skewed priorities contributed to a waiting list of 2,300 needy people seeking housing while the authority willingly accepted a 15 percent vacancy rate in a dozen housing complexes. It's absurd. Putting the poor, elderly and single parents with children into affordable shelter shouldn't take a back seat to prettying up the director's office. Likewise, some of the apartments fell into severe disrepair because of a community manager's malaise at the Cypress Farms complex in Lacoochee where on-site property inspections became too infrequent.
The agency's troubles, however, extend beyond a backed up repair log. Inattentive management cost the authority as much as $500,000 in homeless grant dollars last year because an employee checked the wrong box on the application, according to Pasco County.
The Pasco Housing Authority is a $15.1 million agency whose clients — some of Pasco's neediest residents — deserve better than management marked by ignorance and ineptness.