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.
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.
Poachers killing elephants at increasing rates; independent autopsy on Brown; Gaza truce continues and more national and international news for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.
A state judge Friday refused a temporary injunction sought against state education officials in an effort to block implementation of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana.
UL was the consensus pick in a coaches' preseason poll to win the league, and experience has a lot to do with that.
The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is under scrutiny for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Many people found not guilty by reason of insanity are being held in Louisiana jails, where they cannot get the treatment they need, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
In a just-released audio recording, City Prosecutor Gary Haynes claims Mike Harson had direct dealings with the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme in the DA’s office.
C-P councilmen sponsor a resolution in support of the notion that one should subscribe to Tea Party ideas about civics before being allowed to seek public office.
Russel Honoré, the retired U.S. Army general known for his role in restoring order to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and most recently for his involvement in the Green Army movement to stop environmental abuses of Louisiana, has now weighed in on the police response to protestors in Ferguson, Mo.
More than three dozen restaurants, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets in Lafayette Parish are facing fines in connection with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s 2014 “Summer Crackdown.”
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.