City-Parish President Joey Durel did not appoint Lafayette Housing Authority board members Gertrude Batiste and Gregory Day, but he has received the go-ahead to remove them from the board of the embattled agency.City-Parish President Joey Durel did not appoint Lafayette Housing Authority board members Gertrude Batiste and Gregory Day, but he has received the go-ahead to remove them from the board of the embattled agency.
This afternoon Durel told The Independent Weekly that officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told him the red flags raised by the independent auditor about how the agency is run are enough justification for dismissing the board and replacing it with new members.
According to HUD, Durel exercised proper authority in previously dismissing board members Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons. He chose to keep only one of his appointments, Donald Fuselier. At that time Durel thought he had no authority over the remaining two members on the commission, who — so it seems — were appointed by officials in the city of Broussard and in Vermilion Parish, whose Section 8 programs are under the umbrella of the LHA. Durel now says HUD officials informed him that all LHA board members are indeed his appointees.
“It’s a strange relationship,” Durel says of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s role in the LHA. “Why do I appoint a board but have no oversight?” It’s a question he is still seeking a legal answer for.
“Part of the issue with the last board was lack of action,” Durel says, explaining that he was contacted by board members Fuselier and Buddy Webb as soon as they were made aware of the audit’s findings more than a month ago. The most glaring instance of potential fraud at the agency involved five case workers who were paid $37 an hour to oversee a disaster housing assistance program. Among the case managers were former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams and broadcaster Porsha Evans, whose real name is Beatrice Wilson; none of the case workers turned in time sheets, yet each was paid for 40 hours of work every week. Williams already has a full-time job at UL Lafayette. See last week's cover story, "Self-Serving," for more on the fiasco.
The city-parish president says the board should have taken immediate action to investigate the audit’s findings and fire the case managers instead of waiting until Aug. 13 to terminate them. Durel plans to keep Fuselier, a former city prosecutor, on the board. The authority’s chairman, Webb resigned his post in the wake of the controversy and has declined to serve on a newly constituted board.
By Friday Durel hopes to have firm commitments from four new board members; he is actively seeking candidates with backgrounds in accounting.
Durel is unsure how Batiste was able to serve on the board, as he has been advised that he could not appoint a member of the Lafayette City-Parish Council to serve as an LHA board member.
While he has no authority over personnel at the LHA, Durel says he will only appoint board members willing to take whatever action is necessary to clean up the agency so that it can resume its primary mission: helping the poor with access to affordable housing.
For reasons still unknown, somewhere along the way the LHA lost sight of that mission. Many of those answers now lay with HUD, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the Louisiana Inspector General and the FBI, all of whom sources close to the LHA say are now investigating.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.