Monday, December 17, 2012

WHA still wants to know why manager resigned

As published in the Record Journal, Sunday December 16, 2012

By Laurie Rich Salerno

Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235

WALLINGFORD - It’s been more than a week since the Wallingford Housing Authority’s board of commissioners received a resignation letter from its management company, and board members say they’re still very early in the transition process.

Board member Nicholas Lombardi said last week that the board was still planning a meeting with DeMarco Management Corp. to discuss the departure.

“We’re going to ask her for the opportunity to sit down and talk about it,” Lombardi said, referring to DeMarco Management representative Maria De-Marco. “Tell us why you have chosen to resign and to get some information.”

DeMarco sent a letter dated Nov. 30 to the board that stated without explicit reason that the firm would be severing its ties with the authority in 60 days, on Jan. 31, 2013.

Reached Friday, DeMarco did not elaborate on her reasons for leaving, but said, “It’s a personal decision.”

“I’ve loved the assignment, it’s been great. I think we’ve done a great job,” she said.

Leaving Jan. 31, 2013, would give De-Marco a full year of running the authority, after taking the helm Feb. 1, 2012.

The company, based in Hartford, manages about 80 other properties throughout the state. The Connecticut Housing Finance Authority recommended De-Marco to the Housing Authority last year to quickly fill the hole left by the retirement of Stephen Nere as executive director in December 2011 and the departure soon after of much of his staff.

In May, the board voted unanimously to renew the DeMarco company’s initial six-month contract for another year, which meant the company was expected to run the authority until June 30, 2013. But the contract stated that either party could end the relationship with 60 days’ written notice.

The authority manages 317 units, including low- and moderate-income and elderly and handicapped housing, on an annual budget of about $1.5 million.

DeMarco was to be paid about 5 percent of each month’s rental income. The company managed day-to-day operations at the authority, including collecting rent, marketing units, tending to tenant concerns and managing the authority’s finances.

As for what could come next for the authority, board members said it’s still too soon to talk about whether they’ll be looking for another management company or another executive director, or whether they will put a bid out for both.

“We’re looking at our options right now,” Lombardi said.

Following Nere’s retirement after allegations of mismanagement in 2011, the board voted, after months of debate, to consider hiring a management company to run its seven properties. It also simultaneously worked out a job description and advertisement for another executive director, before ultimately hiring De-Marco Management.

Board member Thomas Mezzei said he doesn’t have a preference for which type of management he’d like to see at the authority.

“Depends on what comes in — but time is of the essence, the 31st is not that far off,” Mezzei said. He said he is waiting for a meeting to be called to discuss the issue.

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