The Lafayette Housing Authority, despite repeated assurances it would fight the back-pay lawsuit from former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams over a lack of evidence proving the work was performed, appears headed toward a settlement. Why, however, is unclear.
|Photo by Robin May|
|Former City Parish Councilman Chris Williams|
Williams’ lawsuit stems from his termination in August 2010 as a contract case worker for the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program. The program was created to help less fortunate families find housing in the wakes of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and was administered locally by the LHA.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the LHA's primary funding source, and the LHA settled with at least two former DHAP workers. It's unclear whether settlements were reached with two others (we will update this story with that information). Read more here.
Their terminations resulted from an independent audit released in the summer of 2010 that showed the DHAP case workers were not filing proper documentation to substantiate their $600 monthly car allowance and $2,960 paychecks, which were based on a full-time pay rate of $37/hour for 40 hours/week.
The IND also discovered that Williams was holding a second full-time job with UL Lafayette, raising serious questions about his ability to satisfy his full-time requirements as a DHAP case worker. Williams responded that the DHAP work was actually being handled by two female workers, Paula Scott and Michelle Mouton, from his nonprofit, the Lafayette Training and Career Development Center.
In his lawsuit, Williams says he’s owed about $20,000 in back pay for himself and his nonprofit, which is the entity he claims was contracted through the federal program. It is unclear how much Williams is seeking in the lawsuit.
In addition to a lack of evidence proving the DHAP work was performed, Williams’ so-called contract, according to LHA’s former executive director Walter Guillory, was based on a vague verbal agreement with Jonathan Carmouche, the LHA’s former second-in-command who has since disappeared from the area following a federal investigation into corruption within the walls of the housing authority.
Williams’ case against the LHA was set to go to trial Monday. Yet, according to Buddy Webb, a former LHA board member and one of the witnesses subpoenaed by Williams’ attorney Harold Register, it appears a settlement is in the works. That means Monday’s trial likely won’t go down as scheduled.
“I’ve been told that it’s costing a lot of money for the housing authority to fight this case, and so they’re working on some sort of resolution,” Webb tells The IND.
Webb says he’s frustrated that the LHA has suddenly backed down from its fight against Williams, which in essence, is setting a precedent that it’s OK to misuse public money, because apparently you can get away with it, as was witnessed recently in an unrelated case involving Williams’ supposed former employee Paula Scott. With no repercussions, Scott was allowed to get out of making more than $36,000 in restitution payments for hurricane relief money she stole from the Acadiana Outreach Center. Read more on that here.
“Here’s a guy who according to the Legislative Auditor didn’t have proper records to prove the money he was being paid, so really, I think [Williams] should be paying us money that he didn’t rightfully earn,” says Webb. “The housing authority definitely shouldn’t be paying him for a vague verbal contract that really never existed. This program is supposed to be helping people in need, but all they’re really doing is focusing on their own greed. I think the housing authority owes an explanation to this community of what was resolved. Especially if he didn’t have a contract. Why did they cave at the 11th hour?”
For now, that question remains unanswered, as neither LHA Executive Director Katie Anderson, nor LHA’s attorney, Robert David Jr., responded to calls from The IND.