New Alachua County Housing Authority leader abruptly resigns


Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:32 p.m.

On his second day of work as the Alachua County Housing Authority's new executive director, Bernard Wells decided to resign — leaving the agency leaderless once again in the wake of longtime showrunner Gail Monahan's retirement.

While Monahan helmed the housing authority for 40 years, Wells decided to vacate the position the same week he started it.

The housing authority's board of commissioners convened a special meeting Monday at which it dealt with the unexpected vacancy. It terminated Wells' contract and authorized Cathy Scott, the agency's public housing director, to take over as acting executive director until the agency can hire someone permanently.

In lieu of additional compensation for assuming the interim position, Scott suggested providing cost-of-living raises, at minimum, for ACHA staff. The short-staffed agency's employees are all assuming extra duties, she said. The board plans to further discuss the idea at a later date.

Kali Blount, who serves on the board, said Wells didn't give a clear reason for leaving. He started the job last week after Martin Luther King Jr. Day and announced his desire to resign on his second day at the agency.

Blount said at the meeting that Wells had said he was “regretful and embarrassed” about leaving so abruptly.

Wells previously served as executive director at the Poughkeepsie Housing Authority and the Canton Housing Authority in New York.

Although the executive director position has become vacant unexpectedly, the board already has a candidate in mind: Herbert Hernandez, who was its second choice for the position below Wells. It designated a three-person subcommittee comprised of board members to negotiate the contract with him.

Hernandez, who was fired in June 2011 from his job as executive director of the Lakeland Housing Authority, was considered in late 2011 as a finalist for the executive director position at the Gainesville Housing Authority, as previously reported by The Sun. A note to the Gainesville Housing Authority from the search coordinator during its hiring process stated that Hernandez said his firing “was politically motivated and unjustified,” which his references confirmed.

The Ledger, a newspaper in Lakeland, reported in October 2011 on a criminal investigation of Lakeland Housing Authority regarding an alleged violation of state public records laws that occurred during Hernandez's tenure as director.

Also around Hernandez's time at the Lakeland Housing Authority, police arrested a board member for allegedly stealing money from an area resident association. Hernandez's involvement in the handling of the board member's arrest was questioned, and he reportedly pressured another member of the authority staff to have police arrest the individual before the board meeting at which he was fired, according to the Ledger.

The ACHA board plans to move quickly in filling the executive director position and hopes to have a new contract with Hernandez ready for approval by early February.

Hernandez, if hired, would effectively become Monahan's successor in the wake of Wells' short-lived stint as executive director. The housing authority was established in 1967, with Monahan taking on her longtime leadership post in 1973.

It has 316 low-income housing units and 830 Section 8 vouchers, which help low-income families maintain affordable rental payments for safe, satisfactory housing in the private market.

The housing authority's leadership was faulted in July 2012 by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report for lax financial oversight. The report mentioned a lack of internal controls on finances and improper interfund transfers among other problems. Monahan disputed the report's findings, pointing to a dearth of detail to support its conclusions.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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