Former LHA board members answer allegations, sort of
Former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, embroiled in controversy over his former job as a contract case worker for the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program through the Lafayette Housing Authority, is firing back, in a manner of speaking.
In a rambling, convoluted story in the August issue of Southern Consumer Times evidently (but not clearly) written by former LHA board member John Freeman, readers are given the multi-tiered defense that, A) board members and Williams are being unfairly vilified, B) the audit actually finds no improprieties and, C) this is really about bad blood between Williams and state Rep. Rickey Hardy.
Williams was canned from the position and the board members dismissed by City-Parish President Joey Durel following the release of an independent audit finding, to say the least, irregularities in LHA operations. The SCT article has no byline and shifts from first-person singular to third person to first-person plural.
Williams did not return repeated phone calls for a series of articles in The IndependentWeekly about the LHA audit. But in a segment in the SCT article headed “A PLEASURE TO BE REMOVED,” Williams’ case is laid out (reproduced here verbatim and in its entirety):
It is not often I can say I am proud to be a casualty. Doing right things right and respecting protocol, digesting what is in front of me and then attempt to make the best possible decision is my make up. But from the perspective of the people that influenced my dismissal I can say thank you. You have allowed me the opportunity to know and thank the many citizens who have called to reassure me and other board members in this matter. If there is a tone of dissatisfaction, you are on point. What angers me more is how these events took place outside the board room, especially, by the Chairman. The abuse of power, the misguided blatant overthrow of the board without just cause and the marred reputation of good citizens, yes, this is really disappointing. Had Chris Williams not been working the DHAP program and had Donald Fusilier not been Rickey Hardy’s best friend, these escalated events may have not taken place. Sometimes I wonder what the African American and Lafayette community thinks of this. Maybe the Independent Weekly can make up some type of script for the informers — maybe make them look good. I am sure, Rickey, what’s her name?, yes, you called her Leslie, maybe she can continue trying to make all of us look bad; maybe give you a political make up job; or maybe a good speech. The people who were newly appointed directors were appointed long after the DHAP program. They did not deserve this mayhem. Is this what you (Rickey) bring to our community? If it is, I think its time for you to sharpen your resumé.
The article — again, no byline despite frequent use of first- and third-person pronouns — also takes to task former LHA board Chairman Buddy Webb, who cited both health problems and disenchantment with the housing authority in resigning before results of the audit became publicly known (this segment, too, is reproduced verbatim and in its entirety):
I don’t understand why Buddy Webb has a gag order not to speak to the press. He should have been gagged sometime ago. There was a famous boxer that said, ‘You can run but you can’t hide.’ We will not let you think that you resigned because you done it under protest, embarrassment and for health reason. No! You did not! You resigned because you fail miserably as a Chairman and leader. You resigned because the people who trusted you, you could not look them in the eye. You resigned because you mislead Joey Durel. No Buddy, you can not hide now! No way! You can not hide the fact that the Auditors said all of the money was accounted for. Yes, you are on the run. Run Buddy! Did you ever stop to think what you were doing and the families you were hurting? We can sleep well at night knowing we can face up to injustice when we see it. And if we never get another appointment, it will not stop us from serving this community and fostering good will for all the citizens of Lafayette. Run Buddy, Run!
MAY 20 This post by blogger CB Forgotston draws parallels between Gov. Bobby Jindal and two individuals he probably doesn't want to be aligned with: President Obama and former governor Edwin Edwards. CB says Jindal's trying to jack up the debt ceiling (an Obama play, according to CB) and buy votes from GOP leges who normally wouldn't go for that (an Edwards play, CB says).
MAY 20 Here's a post in the Baptist Message from an alumnus of Louisiana College. The author, Larry Burgess, calls on the leadership of the private school to take care of some pressing problems. Physical plant issues are critical and unaddressed, some faculty make so little they need government health care, and there is an atmosphere that does not encourage honest discussion, he writes. It's time to get things back in order, he says.
MAY 20 This post in Gambit tells of a benefit concert scheduled to raise money for the 19 people shot during a Mother's Day second line on Frenchmen Street in NOLA. Among them was Gambit blogger Deb Cotton, who spoke frequently about violence in the city and reported on the city's second line culture. Gambit's foundation, along with other NOLA non-profits, also is selling t-shirts to raise money for the victims.
MAY 20 Blogger Robert Mann is critical of the personal interest some legislators take in their work here, sharing the comments one NOLA solon made in explaining his decision to vote against a bill that would require people to stop discriminating against female workers. His wife might lose some salary, so he was going to have to vote against the equal pay bill, Conrad Appel said. Appel and everyone who heard him should have been ashamed, but they weren't, and that's what is wrong in that building, Mann argues.
MAY 20 American Press columnist Jim Beam writes about the budget again here, urging kudos for the House and its efforts to try to fix the budget as opposed to passing on a flawed and messy rubber-stamped document as it usually does. The Senate already is poo-pooing the effort, but instead Senators should be trying to find a way to improve it as well, Beam argues. He also has some predictions in here from LABI and CABL.
MAY 20 Here's a link to the photo gallery from Tulane's graduation this past weekend. Dr. John and Allen Toussaint played together and received honorary degrees. The Dalai Lama was so entranced by their performance he got up from his seat and walked across the stage to stand next to them. He even participated in a second line with his own personal, saffron-colored umbrella. To the graduates, he urged them to think about creating a peaceful, hopeful life and society.
MAY 20 This Picayune story questions the rhetoric of NOLA officials who say the city, aside from having a "murder problem," is safe. The talking points generally are that the criminals are killing each other, but everything else is OK. The police chief there says that even Lafayette is more dangerous than NOLA. But crime experts interviewed here say that NOLA's numbers indicate one of two things: either people are so used to violence they don't report it, or somebody's "fudging the numbers."
MAY 20 The Advocate's Mark Ballard writes about some of the background maneuvering that took place during the development of budget alternatives in the Legislature. From Rep. Joel Robideaux being called a "tax and spend liberal" to robo-call influence, Ballard lets us in on some of the work that happens behind the scenes but usually doesn't make it into the Advocate's daily coverage of the session.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.