ST. PETERSBURG — As chief executive of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, Tony Love is paid $157,000 annually to run the city's public and subsidized housing.
But the agency's governing board recommended late last year that Love and the agency's other top executives should also get a percentage of any development fees from the construction of new low-income housing, a perk that no other Tampa Bay housing authority provides.
Under the proposal, which has now been scrapped, Love would have received 2 percent of development fees with other agency officers getting a 1 percent share. The recommendation was made at a specially convened board meeting in October attended by only four of the board's seven commissioners.
At the same meeting, Love was awarded a 5 percent pay raise and his monthly car allowance increased from $600 to $700 per month, both backdated to the beginning of 2018.
The vote raised red flags among some members of the St. Petersburg City Council, which previously refused to sign off on a $25 million tax exempt bond the housing authority wants to issue to rehab and redevelop Jordan Park. Authority officials are scheduled to meet with council members Thursday to discuss the redevelopment project.
"I think it's ludicrous there would be money that should be spent serving a vulnerable population going into the pockets of those entrusted to help those people," said City Council member Amy Foster.
Foster's concern led her on Oct. 30 to ask the Housing Authority to provide a list of the other executives that would receive the perk. The housing authority did not respond until Friday, providing a list with Love and nine other executives including the agency's social services and human resources officers.
"Why would the human resources person get a portion of the development fee?" Foster asked.
Its unclear how much the perk would have been worth. The incentive would have been paid through the RISE Development Corporation, a non-profit the Housing Authority established in 2016.
Michelle Ligon, a private consultant working for the agency, said the plan was dropped after a review to see if it complied with regulations. She did not respond to two requests for an interview with Love.
Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman questioned why the agency's board would approve the perk. Its commissioners are appointed by the St. Petersburg mayor but the agency is autonomous from the city.
"That would look like (Love) was getting two checks, one from the housing authority and one from RISE Development and I wasn't okay with that," she said.
The Tampa Housing Authority has redeveloped several aging and run-down housing projects over the past two decades and is currently redeveloping North Boulevard Homes. Chief Operating Officer Leroy Moore said he did not know of a housing authority that paid its officers an incentive for new development.
Looking for real-time news alerts?
Subscribe to our free Breaking News newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
"That would not be typical for housing authorities based on my knowledge," Moore said.
The incentive, along with the recommendation of the pay rise and car allowance increase, came from the agency's personnel committee, a sub-group of commissioners. The group met hours before the specially convened board meeting.
Housing Authority Commissioner Terri Lipsey Scott, who missed the October board meeting, requested a copy of the audio recording of the personnel meeting. The audio file she received cut out after one minute and 14 seconds, long before any discussion on Love's salary.
"I find it mind-boggling," she said. "Why should there be an incentive for individuals to do their job? These individuals, particularly the CEO, are rewarded quite handsomely."
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at email@example.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_times.