ST. PETERSBURG — Just two months after being placed on paid leave by a housing agency in Birmingham, Ala., Michael Lundy is the pick of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority as its new leader.
Housing Authority board members on Thursday approved a three-year contract for Lundy that will pay him $170,800 per year. He is in negotiations to terminate his contract with the Housing Authority of Birmingham District after the board there voted to put him on paid leave in March.
Birmingham Board Chairman Cardell Davis said that the decision was “necessary to move HABD’s leadership in a different direction in order to meet our commitment to the residents,” according to a Birmingham Times report.
Lundy, 69, had faced criticism in 2019 for being too slow to react to a spate of crime in the city’s public housing. In June, a 4-year-old girl was struck and killed by a stray bullet. Four months later, a 3-year-old was snatched from a birthday party on a housing complex and later found dead.
During that period, the agency took almost six months to agree on a $3.6 million contract for the Birmingham Police Department to assign additional officers to patrol public housing, according to news reports. The agency also took 18 months to fill the vacant director of public safety position.
Lundy was one of about a half-dozen candidates that St. Petersburg board members interviewed by video-conference in April. They were told prior to his interview that he could not speak about why he was put on paid leave because it was a pending legal matter.
He emerged as the first choice of three of the five St. Petersburg board members who conducted the interviews. Chairwoman Stephanie Owens said board members had received information in individual meetings with agency attorney Ricardo Gilmore that there were other issues behind his departure. She said she could not provide more details.
“It was the board’s understanding that those tragedies that occurred were not the impetus for Mr. Lundy’s paid leave,” Owens said.
Board members also spoke with former Birmingham board members listed by Lundy as references and may have been swayed by a letter of recommendation from Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.
“(Lundy) served our community with strong leadership qualities, high ethical values and had a significant knowledge of affordable housing systems,” Woodfin wrote.
But the controversy around Lundy’s fallout with his board is a concern for board member Jerri Evans. She said the Housing Authority is still recovering from the turbulent ouster of former leader Tony Love, who was fired in August after a spate of missteps that led to the agency facing a federal review.
"I think he comes with too much baggage, based on what has just occurred within our own housing authority,” she said.
Lundy could not be reached for comment. A request for an interview with him made through Gilmore did not receive a response. The Tampa Bay Times made two requests for an interview with Davis, the chairman of the Birmingham housing agency. He did not respond.
Lundy’s new salary is the maximum the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allows to be paid using federal funds. Some agencies, including the Tampa Housing Authority, use other income to increase their top executive’s salary. The Tampa chief executive officer, Jerome Ryans, is paid $249,000. He has led the agency for 22 years.
Lundy also will receive a $750 monthly car allowance, health insurance and a pension. He will get a one-time $10,000 payment for his relocation expenses.
Still, the job means a substantial pay cut. According to his job application, Lundy was making $247,000 in Birmingham, which is a much larger agency with 4,737 public housing units. St. Petersburg, by contrast, has just under 400 homes.
Nonetheless, Lundy’s salary was an issue for St. Petersburg board member C. Knox LaSister III, who questioned why the new CEO would get paid more than Love. Agency records show Love was being paid about $165,000. LaSister added that the salary would be far in excess of the next highest paid agency employee.
“I think it is clearly an exorbitant salary for the level of responsibility,” he said.
But the salary is comparable to similarly sized housing agencies. Debbie Johnson, the head of the Pinellas County Housing Authority, is paid about $167,000.
Lundy has worked in public housing since 1994 and served as the top executive at several, including in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Huntsville, Alabama. He was an unsuccessful applicant to lead the Pasco Housing Authority in 2012.
He was appointed as Birmingham’s CEO in 2016. Among other projects, he led the redevelopment of Loveman Village, a 500-unit public housing site, into an affordable housing site.
One of his first challenges will be to revive the stalled redevelopment of Jordan Park. The agency moved residents out of the complex’s historic village more than two years ago, but has yet to finalize a financing plan for its redevelopment.
“He is a very well-rounded leader in those areas as a board we have previously identified as being important,” Owens said. “His ability to rapidly redevelop public housing and affordable housing over his entire tenure as a director of a housing authority is extraordinary.”