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Pasco Housing Authority and the ''good ol' boy'' network | News

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Pasco Housing Authority and the ''good ol' boy'' network

DADE CITY, Florida -- If you're looking for proof that the "good ol' boy" system is alive and well, some say you have to look no further than the Pasco County Housing Authority. The PHA has already been branded a "troubled agency" by HUD and now it is raising eyebrows again.

This time it's the way the authority is hiring their new financial assistant. The job was given to Michael McBride, who has no prior financial background, hasn't finished his college degree, was arrested twice for DUI, and has state and federal tax liens against his former business.

But McBride's father was a board member of the Withlacoochee River Electric Co-op, where the new chairman, David Lambert, works. Lambert maintains the new financial assistant comes from a good family and deserves a shot at the job.

"I have known Mr. McBride personally since I was a young man. He is a good man," says Lambert. "He got into a little trouble, but he deserves a chance just like everyone else."

But is McBride the best person for the job? Among the applicants that weren't even called back, much less interviewed, were college graduates -- one with a masters degree, another a National Honor Society member -- a woman who has been working for the agency in finance, and the former financial assistant, Maggie Tafts. Tafts is the authority worker who walked in on then-director Karen Turner and former manager Pat Driscoll engaged in oral sex in Turner's office.

Driscoll remembers Tafts as a hard worker.

"She did everything right. I would probably... I would go out on a limb and say she was the best worker there."

Tafts is also suing to get her old job back.

The hiring issues for the PHA don't stop with McBride. A HUD audit found financial mismanagement and perhaps illegal activity when the housing authority put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new CPA and a new attorney. The only people who applied for the positions were the current CPA and the current attorney, who have been at the agency for years while all the problems have been going on.

"We are going to go back for RFPs on the attorney the accountant and all of these services that are on a contract right now. The contracts haven't been renewed for years and the board is addressing it and they will put out for RFPs," says Chairman Lambert.

He adds that attorney Shelly Johnson and CPA David Cornwell have been advising the agency in the areas where HUD says it failed. He says he doesn't have a problem with them.

"The people working for us now don't cause me concern. I work with them every day, they're good people," says Lambert. "The housing authority went awry and we will limit that and mitigate that with the RFPs, go back out."

Even though the board has made strides, there is still an appearance that the "good ol' boy" system that got the Pasco Housing Authority into trouble may still exist. But a new law may fix all that. House Bill 975 sponsored by representative John Legg and Senator Mike Fasano gives local control of the Pasco County Housing Authority to the Pasco County Commission.

A commissioner will be able to keep a close eye on the authority and will have the ability to hire and fire board members. The bill is waiting for the governor's signature.


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