Months of controversy surrounding the Sanford Housing Authority culminated in a major shakeup of the board Tuesday night, with the Sanford City Council adding five new members and reappointing only two, the Rant has learned.
April Tibbs, who served the board in one of the slots reserved for residents of local public housing, and Bob Joyce, who was appointed to the board in late 2014, were the only two members reappointed Tuesday night. Joining them are commercial real estate broker Brandon Atkins, attorney Jesse Coyle, CCCC employee Dedrick Petty, former school board chairman Bill Tatum, and legal assistant Hope Ware.
The move stems from controversy dating back to November, when the authority attempted to hire a new director (subscription required) who the Rant reported had a felony record. At that time, the Sanford Herald reported that the City Council expanded the board from five members to seven “to oversee the selection of a new director.”
The authority went on to hire a candidate without a felony record, but controversy continued in the spring: In March, the Herald reported that former authority Chairman Ed Grogan admitted to selling insurance to Housing Authority employees (subscription required), which the federal Housing and Urban Development Department considers a conflict of interest. Grogan said at the time he didn’t know he had done anything wrong.
In May, the Herald reported that Sanford Mayor Chet Mann wanted to reseat the entire board and had asked all members who wished to continue serving to reapply (subscription required) due to “turmoil” on the board.
Of the five members who were not reappointed Tuesday night, two – Grogan, the former chairman, and Lowell Hamel – did not reapply. Former members Robert Woods, Ben Gardner and Jan Tart reapplied but were not reappointed. There were several other applicants as well.
The Sanford Housing Authority exists to provide “safe, sanitary, and affordable housing to the low income population of the City of Sanford and County of Lee through rental dwellings owned by the Authority and through Section 8 Housing,” according the city’s website.
Created in 1961, the Authority maintains rental properties for low-income residents in eight communities across Sanford and oversees an annual budget of $8 million.