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Authority tries to return to normal

Published Oct. 10, 2005

St. Petersburg Housing Authority board members took several actions Friday to steady authority operations in the wake of the suspension of the executive director.

Two weeks ago, Edward White Jr. was suspended with pay after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) accused White of mismanagement and barred him from participating in federally financed housing programs.

During a special board meeting Friday, authority members:

Appointed an auditing committee of three board members that will evaluate the authority's financial situation, complete the auditor selection process, review next year's budget and make recommendations for improved financial controls.

Instructed the comptroller to report to the finance committee during the next two weeks on matters of policy and the HUD investigation. The comptroller still would report to Interim Executive Director Linda Bradley on day-to-day financial affairs.

Required that for the next two weeks, any checks of $2,500 or more must be approved by the board or board Chairwoman Patricia Alsup.

Were told by their attorney, Peter Zinober, that they didn't have enough information to decide what to do about the employment status of White. To fire White, Zinober said, the authority would have to collect information showing he did not perform up to standards and would have to give White a list of specific problems.

Were told by their attorneys that White and his lawyer, James Eckert, wanted to interview the authority comptroller, Frances M. Cote, about a financial document produced from the sale of Laurel Park, a public housing complex.

Zinober, a Tampa lawyer who specializes in labor matters, told board members that HUD officials were troubled by a document outlining the sources and uses of money from the Laurel Park transaction.

HUD officials asked White about it during a six-hour meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday, Zinober said. White asked for the opportunity to obtain information on the document and prepare a response to HUD questions, Zinober said.

"We have agreed to make Ms. Cote available under our supervision to answer any questions about its preparation," he said.