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Thursday, January 12, 2012

WHA board looks to avoid repeat

As published in the Record Journal, Thursday January 12, 2012

By Dan Ivers
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2275

WALLINGFORD — Members of the Wallingford Housing Authority board began crafting a job description for its next executive director Wednesday in the hope of avoiding many of the pitfalls that led the last director to leave the position.

The position has been vacant since Dec. 2, when 26year veteran Stephen Nere accepted a $130,000 buyout amid mismanagement allegations. Nere’s deputy director, Theresa Ravizza, resigned shortly thereafter.

Board Chairman Michael Misiti and members Thomas Mezzei, Robert G. Weidenmann and Patricia Hogan began writing the job description, which included a responsibility to meet all federal, state and local codes, a requirement to produce a detailed report at the board’s request, and to oversee and account for the use of all funds the authority receives.

A forensic audit of the agency’s financial records from 2006 to 2008, conducted last year, uncovered major gaps in accounting, as well as inconsistencies in purchasing practices and employee travel reimbursements.

Hogan also suggested that the description include a requirement to document all mileage expenses, although Misiti said that would be covered under the board’s policies. Nere had sued Hogan and other members of the board in 2010, alleging that they violated his contract when they revoked his use of a WHA vehicle to travel between work and his home in Guilford.

Town Councilor Nicholas Economopoulos, who has closely followed the developments surrounding the WHA, said after the meeting that he believed many of the items in the new description were aimed at ensuring that the director would be a diligent record-keeper who would comply with requests from the board.

“The job description is just an attempt to not have happen to them what happened to the last one,” he said.

The board voted late last month to begin advertising for the director position, and Misiti said it has already received “a lot” of applications, though he did not say how many.

“Only the five people here will know who’s applied, and how many have applied,” he said.

The board has stated that it hopes to fill the position quickly, and may begin conducting interviews as soon as next week. It is also accepting applications from property management companies, which could create cost savings. Nere was making about $100,000 at the time of his buyout.

Members of the media and the public were required to leave the meeting while the board discussed the applications it had received, after which the meeting was adjourned.

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