Thursday, December 6, 2012

Housing manager severs WHA tie - DeMarco gives six-month notice

As published in the Record Journal Thursday December 6, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD - The Housing Authority’s property management company has resigned.

In a letter to the authority’s Board of Commissioners dated Nov. 30, DeMarco Management Co. representative Maria DeMarco said the company would be dissolving its relationship with the authority in 60 days, on Jan. 31, 2013. She offered no explicit reason for the departure.

“I feel it is in the best interest of the Wallingford Housing Authority to move forward with a new management approach,” DeMarco said in the letter. “Please rest assured that we will work with you to effect a smooth and professional transition.”

The letter was copied to the authority’s attorneys, representatives of the state Department of Economic and Community Development and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.

“It has been a pleasure working with the Authority, the residents and the greater Wallingford community,” De-Marco said in the letter. She did not return a call to her cell phone Wednesday afternoon.

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, board president Michael Misiti said the authority will set up a meeting next week to figure out what comes next.

“We have some ideas of what to do short term until we find somebody,” Misiti said. “We have a great staff of attorneys that will get us through it again.”

The chairman wouldn’t get into specifics about the transition plans or the departure, because the plans were being developed and he hadn’t spoken with DeMarco since receiving the letter. He said he felt the issue revolved around “a breakdown of some communication” and said the board did not believe the company had mismanaged funds or anything of that nature.

The management company took over the day-to-day operations of the authority in February after the previous director and staff left amid allegations of mismanagement.

The transition seemed to be running smoothly, although an authority meeting about a month ago revealed friction between the maintenance staff, the board and DeMarco’s firm. That friction seemed to have abated as of a meeting on Nov. 29. At that meeting, Wharton Brook resident Wendy Liseo brought up the contentious tone of the previous meeting during a public comment session, and DeMarco told her, “Wendy, we’re working things out.“ The resignation letter was dated the next day, Nov. 30.

Misiti acknowledged that there had been a strain in the relationship between the company and the board, but said he was still surprised to see the letter on Monday, when he received it via email. “We were working through it — what happened from Thursday to Friday, I can’t answer that,” Misiti said. “I want to make it clear that it was her decision and none of us pushed her out.”

Commissioner Bob Wiedenmann said after a lengthy bylaws meeting and executive session Wednesday morning that he had not yet seen a signed resignation letter. He said that if it were official, “it would be disappointing that we have to take a couple steps backwards,” but that “we’ve gone through the transition once — whatever it is, we’ll deal with it.” DeMarco was not at that meeting, though company representatives were.

DeMarco Management’s contract with the authority allows either party to terminate the agreement with 60 days’ written notice.

Tenants who were at the meeting had heard rumors of the departure and were disappointed by DeMarco’s move.

“It’s the tenants’ loss, completely,” Liseo said. “Even at the front desk it has been so much different. I feel that I have been respected and treated with dignity by every one of her staff.”

The rumor of the departure attracted three town councilors to Wednesday’s special meeting, including Vincent Cervoni, a Republican, and Democrats Nicholas Economopoulos and John Sullivan.

Economopoulos, who was instrumental in the departure of the previous director and staff, said he was dismayed by the loss of DeMarco.

“They’re the No. 1 management company in the state,” Economopoulos said. “It will be Wallingford’s loss.”

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