Three of the ousted Lafayette Housing Authority board members finally had their chance to formally review the blistering audit that led to their removal, and the news was anything but pleasant.

Three of the ousted Lafayette Housing Authority board members finally had their chance to formally review the blistering audit that led to their removal, and the news was anything but pleasant.

Tim Green of Monroe-based accounting firm Allen, Green and Williamson told the commissioners the 2009 audit contains 16 specific problem areas, which is far more than the average number of findings in a typical review, The Advocate reported. “At 16, you failed the test,” the paper quoted Green telling the three board members Wednesday. “I’m just being candid with you.”

Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons, who were dismissed from the board in August by City-Parish President Joey Durel, were reinstated to the board last week by state District Judge Ed Rubin. While he found that Durel had the authority to dismiss the board members and that their removal was properly upheld during an appeal to the City-Parish Council, Rubin noted that Durel’s action was arbitrary because of his decision to keep one board member, Donald Fuselier. Durel has yet to respond to Rubin's ruling.

The board's initial efforts to hold a meeting failed due to lack of a quorum because Fuselier did not show up, but after further review of the board’s bylaws, LHA attorney Daniel Stanford found that the original proclamation creating the housing authority, signed in 1940, called for a board of commissioners consisting of five members appointed by what was then the mayor of Lafayette. At some point since then, a board member was added from Broussard and Abbeville (those two dismissed members did not appeal), but Stanford could not find where a resolution was ever passed authorizing the creation of two additional seats. Therefore, a board of three constitutes a quorum, Stanford says.

At Wednesday’s meeting, officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the board members that they cannot approve any expenditures without authorization from the federal agency. HUD, which arrived this week and plans to stay for weeks, possibly months, to work through the problems in the audit, provides most of the LHA’s funding. At Wednesday's meeting HUD officials said they had not taken over the housing authority. 

The audit questioned what appeared to be exhorbitant payments to contract case managers who were working with clients displaced by hurricanes (the five case managers were later fired by the board), extra payments to LHA Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche for inspecting homes (a practice that has since ceased), potential violations of state bid law requirements and numerous issues of altered documents and/or lack of documentation for expenses. The audit also pointed to various deficiencies in how the LHA handled funding and expenses for the St. Antoine Gardens home-ownership program, problems that remain on the LHA's books.

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