Broward News

Attorney for Executive Director Found Emails That Triggered Stevens' Resignation From Housing Authority

Last week, an activist bent on reforming the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority resigned rather than face a special meeting called to remove him. This week, we've learned who was behind that effort.

Tom Connick, the Deerfield Beach attorney who represents Pamela Davis, executive director of the city Housing Authority, said that he discovered through a public records request the email chain that led the agency to call for activist blogger Chaz Stevens' removal from his board position. 

"I did the public records request," says Tom Connick. His first request was for Stevens' emails with Michael Kessler, the forensic auditor reviewing the way the Housing Authority has spent funds allocated to it by the Deerfield Beach Commission.

"One of those emails showed that Leslie Hall was copied," says Connick. He learned that Leslie Hall had been terminated as a staff member of the Housing Authority by Davis. He then made a request for correspondence between Stevens and Hall.

"The way I've connected the dots

some time around February, a disgruntled former employee, Leslie Hall, and Chaz Stevens have contact," says Connick. "Leslie Hall doesn't have a clear understanding of what she's talking about."

Let's pause there to remind folks that Connick represents Davis, who may have colored his opinions on Hall. Now back to his hunch:

"At the same time as they talk to each other, Chaz comes out alleging corruption in the Housing Authority. This coincides with Stevens pushing to get on the board. And this is around the time that Chaz is getting a shoutout in the Kessler report."

The Kessler report, which found evidence of potential fraud within Deerfield's Community Development Division, credited Stevens with muckraking blog posts that helped bring those issues to light.

If Connick is correct, then Leslie Hall, Michael Kessler, and Chaz Stevens were all collaborating in a coordinated effort to find out whether there was corruption in the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority.

Well. I'm not sure whether we should send them to prison or give them jobs at the Broward State Attorney's Office. I told Connick that in my opinion, a Housing Authority commissioner hunting for corruption might actually be a good thing.

"No, but the question is: What's the purpose or intent?" says Connick. Corruption-fighting, he adds, is helpful only when there's actually corruption. "It's not worthwhile when it's baseless."

As you can see in this post from May 21, Connick and I can't see eye-to-eye on Housing Authority matters. The way I see it, if there's no corruption in the Housing Authority, then they'll be looking forward to the auditor's analysis so they can clear their good name.

Nobody likes to be audited, of course. But when you're dealing with the city's money, it comes with the territory. Just go along with it. You've got nothing to hide, right?

Instead, the Housing Authority has complained about having to provide records to the city. Its board chair has suggested the agency refuse to provide records to the city. And its executive director has hired an attorney who has engineered the ouster from the board of her chief critic.

We'll reserve judgment at least till the auditor publishes his report, but for the time being, the Housing Authority's done a pretty rotten job looking like it has nothing to hide.

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Thomas Francis