big_chris_2
 Photo by Robin May
Chris Williams
The fight between former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams and the Lafayette Housing Authority will finally come to a close early next year as a date was set last week by 15th Judicial District Judge Edward Broussard for a Jan. 21 bench trial.

Williams and LHA have been at odds since August 2010, when LHA terminated his contract as a federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program case worker. Williams was terminated along with several other DHAP case workers after an independent audit commissioned by LHA — the local administrator of the federally-funded program — uncovered abuses of the system. Those alleged abuses centered on the absence of time and mileage sheets to document the bi-weekly $600 car allowances and $2,960 pay checks (based on a full-time pay rate of $37/hour for 40 hours/week) received by the ousted case workers.

Though LHA was quick to settle with two of the terminated case workers, for the last two years it has patiently fought Williams and his attempt to recover $20,000 in backpay, as well as alleged damages through September 2012 for himself and his corporation, the Lafayette Training and Career Development Center. Shortly after the release of LHA’s audit in 2010, additional suspicions were raised with the discovery that Williams was holding a second “full-time” job with UL Lafayette’s Special Services Department — a job he continues to hold. That would mean he was allegedly putting in a minimum  of 80 hours a week during the period of his dual employment and could be why LHA opted against a settlement with Williams; however, LHA’s legal counsel, Lafayette attorney Robert David Jr., has neither confirmed nor denied that assertion.

Williams' original civil suit, filed in Nov. 2011, claimed his non-profit corporation, LTCDC, was owed about $20,000 in back pay. Yet, at a May 2013 hearing, Judge Broussard instructed the former city-parish councilman that state law does not allow corporations (even non-profits) to make claims for back pay, and that he would have to refile his suit as a personal claim before the matter could proceed to trial. Williams filed an amended version of the suit in August, which largely resembles the original petition except that an alleged breach of contract by LHA is now the focus of his claim for damages.

The bench trial — which means a non-jury verdict rendered by Judge Broussard — is set for Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m.

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