Lafayette Housing Authority Executive Director Walter Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche both resigned Monday morning, The Independent Weekly has learned. It is unclear who is in charge of the embattled agency at this time.
In one of the latest developments at the troubled housing authority, last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general arrived at the office to conduct an audit. Another top HUD official from Texas is expected to set up shop at the local authority’s offices this week.
HUD insisted to local media that it hasn’t taken over the local housing authority yet has made it clear no expenditures can take place without its authorization.
The LHA has been under the microscope since an audit of its operations, released by independent auditors in late July, pointed to 16 serious problems with how the agency is managed and questioned more than $240,000 in payments to contractors working the Disaster Housing Assistance Program. The audit’s findings prompted an investigation by the Louisiana legislative auditor and FBI after Guillory, above, suggested to the board that a new auditing firm be hired.
The Independent Weekly has since learned that it has been several years since the LHA’s board formally reviewed one of its annual audits to discuss the findings and form a plan of action for dealing with them. Audit findings in those years point to repeated problems that have continued to grow, specifically around expenditures of money and documentation issues. The agency has thus been operating with very little oversight from its board of commissioners.
Guillory joined the LHA in November 1998 after HUD took over what was then a grossly mismanaged agency. A former minor league baseball player, Guillory worked for the Alexandria Housing Authority (November 95 to June 98) as deputy director and city of Alexandria (November 96 to June 98) as a recreation specialist before returning to Lafayette. Before that, he worked for Boys and Girls Clubs in Alexandria and Lafayette.
Guillory makes $186,000 a year (with a $5,000 business allowance and other benefits), having been given a $55,000 raise by the board of commissioners late last year — about the time he was leaving the Opelousas Housing Authority, where he was paid $80,000 a year to also serve as executive director. That agency is also now under investigation.
Much of the LHA controversy has also involved Guillory's second in command. The auditors also noted that Carmouche, who was in charge of the DHAP, was himself getting a piece of the DHAP action, inspecting homes in the program “on Saturdays” for $75 a pop. Carmouche, who earns $85,000 a year, got an extra $20,000 from the LHA for inspecting homes in 2009 and had already been paid $11,300 when he stopped conducting inspections this year after the audit.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
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.