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.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.