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.
The political tilt of the Senate during President Barack Obama's final two years in office is likely to hinge on a handful of female contenders in tight and costly races.
A former BP executive will be allowed to travel to the United Kingdom later this month while he awaits trial on charges relating to an investigation of the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
South Koreans defend ramen; special forces had failed to find James Foley; Vegas lures LGBT tourists and more national and international news for Thursday, August 21, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Friends and family will celebrate Spider's life in September.
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U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her main Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy, verbally sparred as they officially signed up on the opening day of qualifying for Louisiana's November election.
Superintendent tells crowd he'd just emerged from a four-hour meeting with the attorney hired to investigate him.
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Gov. Bobby Jindal's effort to derail Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards was halted Tuesday by a state judge who said the governor's actions were harmful to parents, teachers and students.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram isn't letting a humbling start to his pro career lower his opinion of what he can still accomplish in the NFL.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.