Daniel Stanford, the Lafayette Housing Authority’s attorney, says he was notified by LHA Executive Director Walter Guillory that the Disaster Housing Assistance Program case managers fired in August say they were improperly discharged, in that they were not given the 30 days’ written notice required by their contracts. They contend they are owed for 30 days of work — which would amount to $5,920 plus $600 in car allowance for each of them.
But there’s a glitch.
After repeated public records request for the DHAP case managers’ current contracts in the wake of their firings, The Independent Weekly received this statement from LHA Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche Aug. 27: “Because of the continual extensions of the DHAP-Ike/Gustave [sic] program and the recurrent needs of the families, time did not permit to update the contracts with each extension.” The contracts, it turns out, all expired earlier this year without having been renewed.
“The one who is really pushing the issue is Porsha Evans,” Stanford says, though it’s his understanding the other four case managers also want to be reimbursed. The case managers were fired by the LHA board in a special meeting Aug. 13. Their terminations came on the heels of a critical independent audit of the LHA, which pointed out several problems with how the housing authority was administering and managing the Department of Housing and Urban Development/FEMA housing program, which was designed to help families displaced by hurricanes. At the time, Guillory told the board HUD officials had pored over the program for three days and were unhappy with “the files, the record-keeping. The conclusion is we were not satisfied with that, as far as the record-keeping of the program.”
But The Independent Weekly's review of the program, along what the auditors found, revealed much more than just sloppy record-keeping. Over the past 2.5 years, the DHAP case managers’ pay increased from about $11 an hour to $37; each was paid for 40 hours of work and got a $600 monthly car allowance without turning in time sheets or any other records noting the work the were doing. What’s more, some had additional jobs in the community. In the case of former Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, he had at least one other full-time job at UL Lafayette and even billed the program while he was teaching a class at the university. Others working the DHAP were Charlie Esie, Linda Jefferson and Myra Parker.
The auditors also noted that Carmouche, who was in charge of the DHAP, was himself getting a piece of the DHAP action, inspecting homes in the program “on Saturdays” for $75 a pop. Carmouche, who earns $85,000 a year, got an extra $20,000 from the LHA for inspecting homes in 2009 and had already been paid $11,300 when he stopped conducting inspections this year after the audit.
The auditors further noted that rent reasonableness documentation in the case managers' files, if it was in the file, appeared to be fabricated and that some of files themselves had zero supporting documents. That audit prompted a visit from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor and led to a federal investigation of the LHA, which is ongoing; HUD officials are now working alongside LHA management to address the problems.
At the time the case managers were fired, Guillory explained that the residents on the program would continue to be serviced by the LHA’s existing staff. The program, which had an annual budget of $1.8 million, was slated to expire Oct. 31 but has once again been extended.
Evans, who confirms she has written to the housing authority seeking 30 days of pay, says while the contracts themselves were not renewed, she is confident that HUD’s earlier extension of the program while they were still working as case managers was also an extension of her contract. Evans, who maintains she worked tirelessly for her clients, says she has consulted with an attorney and plans to pursue legal action if necessary. She declined to name her attorney.
“We were sent amendments to the contract,” says Evans, whose real name is Beatrice Wilson. “The amendments came, actually, from HUD.”
That’s not the way Stanford sees it.
The most recent contract for Evans (though each differs slightly) had an effective date of Aug. 1, 2009, through March 31, 2010, the attorney explains. The contract’s “duration” clause stated that the contract would be effective through March 31 of this year “or the date of the termination of the DHAP funding if earlier.” That contract could have been renewed 45 days prior to March 31, approximately Feb. 15, with the consent of both parties.
“That did not happen,” Stanford says.
The “termination” clause states that the LHA shall provide the DHAP worker with written notice of termination 30 days prior to the effective date and shall specify “the nature, extent, and effective date of termination.” Because the contract was not current, the clause does not apply, according to Stanford. He says after March 31 the DHAP workers were operating as independent contractors without a contract and subject to termination at any time, with or without cause.
On Oct. 15 Stanford notified the LHA staff in writing that only the LHA board can take up the matter (three of whose members, ironically, have filed legal action to get their posts back; they were dismissed by City-Parish President Joey Durel a few days after they fired the DHAP workers). However, the board itself appears to have little power to make a decision on whether the case managers are owed any money, as HUD this week made it crystal clear the board cannot approve a single penny of expenditures without its authorization.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Marijuana source of disputes for HOAs; experts say still safe to fly; Russian-supported attacks on Ukraine and more national and international news for Friday, July 25, 2014.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
The legal challenge is part of a continuing struggle over Common Core, which has become controversial since the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards in 2010.
The lone Democrat to announce he's running for governor, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, criticized Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's budgeting tactics as "running the state like a big Ponzi scheme."