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.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Women sue over sperm mix-up; Romney on campaign trail; Ebola patient was released from hospital and more national and international news for Thursday, October 02, 2014.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.