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.
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The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
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State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
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Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
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Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
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The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
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