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Tarpon housing director resigns

Tim Keffalas resigned Tuesday as executive director of the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority, four days after a federal report blasted him for discriminatory rental practices and criticized the local public housing operation.

Keffalas, who is on vacation, faxed a two-page letter of resignation to Bill Keigans, chairman of the seven-member Housing Authority board.

"It was necessary," Keigans said of the resignation.

Housing Authority Commissioner Helene Pierce had planned to ask the board to fire Keffalas at Thursday's commission meeting.

Pierce said she decided Keffalas should be replaced after reviewing the report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and following a recent evaluation by commissioners that rated Keffalas' job performance as fair and in need of improvement.

"It always makes things easier if you resign (rather) than being asked or told," Pierce said.

Keffalas could not be reached for comment Tuesday. He said in his letter that he has not seen the HUD report.

Keffalas wrote that he is resigning because he no longer wants to work the 60 to 80 hours required each week to run the 225-unit Housing Authority.

"Over the last two years I have neglected other parts of my life and it is time for me to address my personal life," the letter says.

In his letter, Keffalas says that he inherited problems at the Housing Authority and had been required by former board leadership to use personnel and procurement policies HUD didn't approve.

He also places some blame on HUD.

"HUD has never come here to assist, when we asked for assistance they came only to criticize," Keffalas wrote. "Each time they came it became a Dogfight (sic) they left us with statements and procedures to follow that they later contradicted and even denied making some statements which were made in the presence of four or more people."

HUD last visited the Housing Authority in June to review its operations. A report of the findings includes reports of money misspent on meals, sloppy record-keeping and as many as one-third of the Housing Authority's apartments empty.

Despite a high vacancy rate, the HUD report also said Keffalas had been using his own moral views to discriminate against people by refusing to rent to some single people and unmarried families with children.

In his letter, Keffalas lists his successes.

Under his leadership, he said, the Housing Authority has repaired and painted nearly 200 apartments and provided housing to as many as 200 people. He said that the Housing Authority's maintenance crew is understaffed because it is expected to cut grass, fix empty apartments and do daily repairs.

"So to place blame on anyone (sic) individual is inappropriate, we have limitations both internally and externally," Keffalas wrote. "Many of our residents have social problems that go beyond being of low income."

Keffalas, 41, has been in charge of the local Housing Authority for two years.

Previously it had been run for nine months by Dean Robinson, head of the Pinellas County Housing Authority, because the Tarpon Springs Housing Authority asked the county to help straighten out its operation.

A local resident, Keffalas was hired for the $30,000-a-year job as executive director even though he had no prior public housing experience and candidates with more experience from across the country had applied.

The Housing Authority board must still take a formal vote on Keffalas' resignation.

"We definitely need to vote to accept, which should be no problem I think," Keigans said. The board is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Housing Authority offices, 500 S Walton Ave.

In his letter, Keffalas asked that his resignation be effective Aug. 5. He also asked for severance pay, as well as reimbursement of money paid into a pension plan.