Linda Jefferson, who was terminated Aug. 13 as a Lafayette Housing Authority Disaster Housing Assistance Program case manager along with four other workers, filed suit Nov. 17 for $10,800 in back pay — plus double that amount in penalties, along with interest, damages and attorneys fees. She is also suing for defamation of character.

Jefferson and case managers Chris Williams, Beatrice Wilson (Porsha Evans), Myra Parker and Charlie Esie were hired in late 2007 to work on the program, which was initially created to help people displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and then extended for Ike and Gustav. So far Jefferson is the only one to file suit, but at least two others have made it clear they believe they were fired without justification and are owed for 30 days of work, as required by their contracts. The workers were terminated by the LHA board of commissioners in August, on the recommendation of then-Executive Director Walter Guillory, after an audit pointed out numerous deficiencies in how the program was conducted and managed. For example, when the LHA’s 2009 books were audited, the independent accounting firm found that the case managers were paid a hefty $37/hour for 40 hours each week (along with a monthly $600 car allowance) but were not turning in time sheets or any other supporting documentation of their work or travels.

Some of the case managers had other jobs, and in the case of former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, multiple jobs including a full-time position at UL Lafayette. In large part due to the troubled DHAP, the LHA got the attention of the state legislative auditor, inspector general for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the DHAP, and the FBI. The legislative auditor’s findings may be released before Christmas, according to a source close to the investigation.

Parker showed up at an Oct. 28 meeting of the LHA’s board of commissioners asking for her 30 days of pay — and the embattled board, three of whose members have since been removed for a second time by City-Parish President Joey Durel for allegedly violating the state’s public meetings law, came close to calling for a vote on the matter. Parker said she represented all of the fired case managers; Wilson has told The Independent Weekly that she is also speaking to attorney.

In her suit, Jefferson includes a copy of the contract she signed with LHA, a document that shows the contract ending in March of this year. LHA attorney Daniel Stanford has made his position on the matter clear: After March 31 the DHAP workers were operating as independent contractors without a contract and subject to termination at any time, with or without cause.

Jefferson’s attorney, Pride Doran, did not immediately return a phone call Monday morning, and the LHA’s Stanford could not be reached. The petition notes service to “The Housing Authority of the City of Lafayette through its Executive Director, Mr. Walter Guillory.” Guillory is no longer the executive director; he resigned Oct. 25.

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