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.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...