Former Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams’ attempt to bring his backpay lawsuit against the Lafayette Housing Authority to trial was denied Monday, pending a response from LHA's attorney.

Photo by Robin May
 Chris Williams

Williams’ lawsuit stems from his time as a contract case worker through the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program. He and several other case workers were terminated in August 2010 after an independent audit of LHA — the local entity that oversaw the DHAP — revealed serious discrepancies in the amount they were paid and the amount of work actually conducted, including a lack of time sheets or travel receipts to substantiate the bi-weekly $600 car allowance and full-time pay rate of $37/hour.

Further suspicions were raised with the discovery that Williams held a second “full-time” job with the Special Services Department at UL Lafayette. Add that to his 40 hours a week obligation to LHA and the feds, and Williams’ weekly workload was easily in excess of 80 hours.

At a hearing in May, the attorney hired by LHA, Robert David Jr., pointed to Louisiana’s Wage and Payment Statute, and argued that corporations have no right to file claims for back pay.

Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Edward Broussard agreed and ruled that in order for Williams to proceed with a lost wages lawsuit it must be refiled as a personal claim, thereby removing all mention of his corporation.

Since Williams was contracted through his nonprofit corporation, the Lafayette Training and Career Development Center, his refiled lawsuit now focuses on the alleged a breach of contract by LHA and seeks to recover about $20,000 in damages for himself and his corporation. Although the LHA has been fighting Williams' claims, it did settle with his former fellow DHAP workers.

In rendering Monday’s decision, Judge Broussard writes, “Motion is denied: No answer has been filed to the amended petition," meaning LHA's attorney must respond before the matter can proceed to trial.

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