In a letter dated Nov. 19, City-Parish President Joey Durel again notified three Lafayette Housing Authority board members of their dismissal — this time for violating the state's open meetings law. Durel was unsuccessful in his August attempt to remove the members in the wake of a blistering audit of the LHA; the three members were reinstated by District Judge Ed Rubin after they appealed their removal.
On Monday, Durel told The Independent Weekly he does not know whether the dismissed board commissioners will again appeal to the City-Parish Council, which upheld their prior removal. They have 10 days to do so.
Durel, who has appointing authority over the board, on Friday removed the three board members, John Freeman, Joe Dennis and Leon Simmons (the resident representative), for neglect of duty and misconduct in office, specifically for he calls a series of violations of the state’s open meetings law. The letter noted that the board members held an illegal executive session on Tuesday, Oct. 26, the day after Executive Director Walter Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche resigned.
While the board stated on its agenda for the meeting that it intended to go into executive session, writes Durel, it did not indicate the specific purpose for the executive session, which is required by law. Durel also claims that the board did not call a vote while in open session to go into executive session, failed to disclose the particular “personnel issues” it planned to discuss (the state’s open meetings law allows for such sessions to discuss character, professional competence, etc. of a particular person) and failed to give 24-hour notice to the person or persons it would be discussing. The board also failed to vote to go back into open session, according to Durel’s letter.
And while various media, including this newspaper, waited outside of the LHA’s Section 8 office for about 30 minutes while the board was in “executive session,” Dennis has insisted to Durel and The Daily Advertiser that no executive session was held that day. The minutes of the meeting, however, requested several times beginning more than a week ago by this newspaper, have Dennis stating, “We will go into executive session.” As the media was leaving the room, LHA administrative assistant Danielle Carmouche, wife of former Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche, advised the board that it must vote to go into executive session, the minutes (prepared by Danielle) read.
In contrast to Durel's position, the minutes further reflect that a motion to exit the session was made by Simmons and seconded by Freeman. "My question is, quite frankly, were the minutes doctored?" Durel asks.
When the media returned to the room, the board members confirmed they had gone into executive session to discuss giving Freeman the authority to sign checks. They also stated publicly that while they intended to discuss the employment of Guillory and his deputy director, there was no reason to do so because they had resigned.
City-Parish Attorney Pat Ottinger, who also was unable to obtain the official minutes from the LHA, had to independently verify, through local media records, what took place at the Oct. 26 meeting, Durel says. (The LHA still has not fulfilled The Independent Weekly’s request for the minutes; state Rep. Rickey Hardy obtained them Friday and provided the paper with a copy.)
Reached on his cell phone Monday morning, commissioner John Freeman declined comment, referring questions to his Baton Rouge attorney, Ernest Johnson. Johnson did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
In an email to Durel Friday, Freeman offers to resign from the board immediately following the Nov. 30 board meeting if the LHA compensates him for the legal expenses he incurred fighting to get his board post back. “I cannot speak for Mr. Simmons but he shares my sentiment,” Freeman wrote, citing Louisiana law that he contends makes the board members eligible to recoup their legal costs.
“There is no legal method, ability, for him to get his legal fees paid,” Durel says, noting that the law Freeman references is designed to protect board members from lawsuits, not to reimburse them for filing lawsuits. “They sued as private citizens. They did it out of choice,” he says.
Four US cities bidding on Olympics; Guardsmen prevent more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
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.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.