The St. Petersburg City Council acted responsibly this week by removing from office three members of the city’s Housing Authority. The agency needs a fresh start, with new board members who act more responsibly and, hopefully, with a new CEO who has better leadership skills.
Mayor Rick Kriseman presented a thorough, convincing case for removing housing agency board members Harry Harvey, Delphinia Davis and Ann Sherman White. The charges included allowing CEO Tony Love to live rent free for nine months in an apartment designated for low-income families, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times’ Christopher O’Donnell. That revelation prompted the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to cite the Housing Authority this spring for violating federal rules.
Council members appropriately found other charges were grounds for removal as well. For example, Sherman White voted for a pay raise for Love even though she was not given a copy of Love’s evaluation. She also missed 40 percent of the agency’s regular meetings last year.
The evidence for removing the board members was overwhelming, and taxpayers and low-income families who live in publicly supported housing deserve better. It’s unfortunate that the board members, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting, have continued to fight and that the Housing Authority filed a lawsuit to try to block their removal. It also wasn’t helpful for NAACP St. Petersburg president Maria Scruggs to mischaracterize the removal of these agency board members as dismantling the Housing Authority.
Kriseman’s prudent move to overhaul the agency’s board and the City Council’s conclusion to remove the three members is aimed at preserving and strengthening the agency. This is not a tear down. It’s a rebuild.