Clearly perturbed by City-Parish President Joey Durel’s comments to local media about attempts to remove the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority’s board of trustees after a Legislative Auditor’s review of its operations turned up numerous deficiencies, City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux is fighting back.
“This is about us sending Lafayette a clear cut message forward,” Boudreaux said Friday afternoon at a press conference he called in the council auditorium. “I keep hearing from constituents, black and white, wanting to know what will be done about [the LPTFA]. I’m not absolutely sure what’s going to take place on Tuesday. I know some people will try and cut this off at the path, but I’m here to tell you this, I’m not going away.”
Boudreaux has introduced a resolution to replace the entire LPTFA board; his resolution is on tonight's agenda. “My resolution, as written, is to clean this board out,” he said.
|Photo by Robin May|
|Cit-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux|
Boudreaux maintains there is little difference between his justification for removing the LPTFA board and Durel’s reasoning in removing the LHA board members in 2010 after a blistering audit of its operations led to federal investigations — though to this paper’s knowledge no board members were investigated.
In particular, Boudreaux points to the Legislative Auditor’s findings of a years-long lack of financial oversight and the LPTFA’s violation of the state’s open meetings law.
Boudreaux also isn’t pleased that there has been no real effort to diversify the public trust’s board. “There’s no racial diversity on this board,” he said at the press conference. “The attitude is let’s build those poor black people some houses, but not let ’em on our board. ... There needs to be better overall board participation. ... I’d like to know what processes do they have? From what I hear, the chairman doesn’t even show the other members all the proposals he receives.”
The LPTFA is a public trust set up in 1979 to benefit the city of Lafayette, and while the City-Parish Council appoints its board, approves its bylaws and bond issues and has the authority to inspect its books and records, it does not directly control the board — and has no say in how it spends the millions of dollars it is entrusted to oversee.
“The council needs to get more actively involved as far as state laws are concerned. ... Based on my research, when there are openings on this board, they have historically not been advertised. For years this board’s members have been hand-selected and cherry-picked," Boudreaux said. "There are some protections under state law that once you’ve been appointed you can’t be removed except for certain reasons, and I feel the council can remove some of these individuals.
“The all white board gets a free ride while the three black board members [of the LHA] got hoodwinked,” Boudreaux continued. “Tell me specifically: What is the difference between the LHA and the LPTFA?” (Durel actually removed five LHA board members, kept one, attorney Donald Fuselier, and Buddy Webb resigned. Three of the five he removed fought to be reinstated.)
As adamant as Boudreaux is to draw parallels, Durel is just as quick to point out the differences among the two boards, again using his line that this is “like comparing apples to carpeting.”
For starters, says Durel, investigations of the LHA revealed that it owed $2.9 million in taxpayer money to the federal government, and — as this paper has reported — there are likely to be indictments resulting from the federal investigation. “What I said from the beginning, [the LHA board members] were good people, but this takes a completely different skill set than they had. ... LHA had several audits with the same problems that were never addressed."
The same could be said of the LPTFA, particularly when it comes to how the trust keeps its books. While the Legislative Auditor did not conduct an audit of LPTFA’s operations, instead issuing an advisory report, it did point out that deficiencies and material weaknesses in internal controls for accounting and financial statement preparation found by independent auditors since 2008 had not been addressed.
Durel also maintains that the three LHA board members he removed failed to show any outrage by the findings, and he believes they would have been content with business as usual at the housing agency.
But Boudreaux is upset that Durel's comments might lead some to believe the former LHA board members are being grouped with those who allegedly broke the law. “This isn’t about the people who committed crimes at the housing authority,” Boudreaux tells The IND. “This is about the three board members, the only people so far who have been held accountable [by being removed].”
“I’m bringing it forward because it needs to happen,” Boudreaux says. “Let’s say I don’t succeed. I’ve done my job.”
What’s unknown by either man is whether the council even has the authority to remove the trustees. “There has been no opinion asked for,” says Durel, who is clearly in LPTFA's corner. “If we ran this government the way they run [the LPTFA], we could all run for governor,” he says. “They’re doing a good job with managing the money."
In an Aug. 1 letter to Boudreaux that he copied to rest of council, LPTFA Chairman John Arceneaux says he was blindsided by the resolution.
Suffice it to say I was shocked by the news report that you are trying to remove the entire board of Trustees without so much as having a conversation with myself or any of the trustees about it. As was pointed out in the council meeting, the Legislative Advisory Report did not accuse myself or any trustees of any wrong doing and I am working diligently on the recommendations in the report.
I would also like to point out something that often gets missed. Since 2008, I have worked very hard and have given away hundreds of hours of my time to develop and grow this trust for the benefit of Lafayette. Mostly under my leadership, the net assets of the trust have increased $6,990,818 in a 4 year period from our March 31, 2007 to March 31, 2011 audits. http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf This increase is partially from cleaning up sloppy accounting and asset tracking over the past 34 years. It is also from issuing First Time Homebuyer Mortgage Revenue Bonds that have helped hundreds of families in your district become first time homeowners. In addition, the current board of trustees has developed an investment policy that has increased the earnings on our liquid assets from less than 1% per year to currently over a 4% return.
Net Assets as reported in our Audits
2007 - $21,341,396
2008 - $23,105,844
2009 - $24,539,893
2010 - $25,002,053
2011 - $28,332,214
Are there any other NGO’s that provide benefits to the City,
· Issuer of Rajun Cajun Bonds
· UL Design Build Project
· Single Family First Time Homebuyers Mortgage Bond Programs
· Second Mortgage Homebuyers Program
· Safe Affordable Housing Developments
· Donation to Purchase Federal Courthouse
· Donation for matching funds for Rosa Parks Transportation Center
· Donation to City to purchase of Land for ACA development
· Plant Street trees on 12th Street
· Design Director Position for DDA
· 2.6 Million dollar grant to help develop the park at the horse farm
and at the same time as increase net assets by 32% over 4 years during one of the worst financial disasters in history, all by taking no taxpayer money?
As always, I am available at any time if you would like to discuss any issues that you may have.