[UPDATE: In court Tuesday, City-Parish President Joey Durel, through attorney Pat Ottinger, agreed not to seat new Lafayette Housing Authority board members until Judge Ed Rubin decides whether three of the commissioners were properly removed by Durel. After the City-Parish Council upheld Durel's dismissal of the commissioners, they filed suit in state district court and are asking for a new hearing before the council. Rubin did not hear any arguments Tuesday; he said he would review video of the September council meeting before making a decision. He is expected to rule this week.]
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin, who Friday ordered City-Parish President Joey Durel and members of the Lafayette council to appear in court Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for a possible contempt of court hearing, rescinded the order Monday.
Rubin initially set a hearing for Durel to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for his appointment of six new members to the Lafayette Housing Authority’s board of commissioners while three dismissed members appeal their removal. Rubin, however, apparently changed his mind at about 11 a.m. Monday, releasing Durel and the council members of their obligation to show up in court today (he continued the hearing but did not set a date). Durel made the appointments last Thursday, Oct. 7, after Rubin denied a temporary restraining order that would have prevented him from naming a new board.
The three dismissed members, removed for what Durel called neglect of duty and lack of outrage over a 2009 audit's troublesome findings, are in Rubin’s court today. Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons are asking the judge to give them a second hearing before the council. They contend they were removed before they had a chance to review the 2009 audit, which raised serious questions about how the agency conducts its business and led to a federal investigation, but they have yet to explain why the board of commisisoners has not formally reviewed an audit since at least 2005. Audits over the past several years show a pattern of repeated troublesome findings that point to gross mismanagement of federal funds, lack of oversight of several departments and violations of state bid laws.
After the 2009 audit revealed severe problems with a federal housing program, five case managers were fired by the board Aug. 13. During that meeting, not one board member asked to review the audit, which had been in the LHA's possession and on the state Legislative Auditor's website for more than a month.