Council Upholds LHA Board Members Removal - KLFY News 10

Council Upholds LHA Board Members Removal

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The Lafayette Consolidated Council voted 5-3 Tuesday night to uphold City-Parish President Joey Durel's removal of Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons from the Lafayette housing Authority board.

The council debated tabling the appeal for two weeks to see what action, if any, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would take against the board members.

Regional HUD Director Justin Ormsby said in a letter to Durel Tuesday that the Lafayette Housing Authority "should consider a fresh start with new management and leadership at all decision making levels if the organization is to rebuild its credibility with the community at large".

Durel argued for a tabling of the vote, arguing that HUD representatives indicated they would act within two weeks of Ormsby's original request for Dennis, Freeman and Simmons to step down.

The consolidated council tied 4-4 in a vote to table the decision (District 7 Councilman Don Bertrand was absent).

The council also considered a motion suggested by the board members' attorney Ernest Johnson to dismiss Durel's removal of the trio, citing the results of a civil case against the Dennis, Freeman and Simmons in which a judge ruled they were not at fault for violating Louisiana Open Meeting Laws.

But the motion to dismiss failed as well when no board member seconded District 3 Councilmember Brandon Shelvin's original motion.

Tuesday night's meeting also raised doubts about Leon Simmons status as a member of the Lafayette Housing Authority Board. 

Simmons admitted he was never sworn in as a housing authority board member during testimony at the hearing; a fact the council chose to overlook in their vote on the board members removal.

Dennis, Freeman and Simmons' attorney said they plan to appeal Tuesday night's decision in court.

Sean Maginnis

 


Feds Weary of LHA

After months of scandal, accusations and counter accusations, the feds are fed up with the Lafayette Housing Authority. 

Thursday Eyewitness News learned housing authority board members Joe Dennis John Freeman and Leon Simmons have been given two weeks to resign their posts or face the consequences.

A spokesman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development says as a result of the trios refusal to step down HUD is left with three options.
     
Option number one is the immediate loss of all federal funds, a move the spokesman says will hurt those who can least afford it; the poor who rely on the housing authority for a place to live.
 
Option number two involves barring the trio from any future interaction with the LHA. And Option number three is the take over of the housing authority by HUD.

Lafayette President Joey Durel says the LHA is currently not only without a legal board, but also an executive director. The council will meet next Tuesday to discuss the current impasse.

 


 

Fuselier Resigns From LHA

The feds have a new way to move forward from the Lafayette Housing Authority Controversy: get rid of some of the board members.

One of the board members has already stepped down.  Don Fuselier says he held out as long as he could, but this, he feels is the best way to move forward.

"It's time for the Mayor to appoint a new board. It's time for the whole thing to go away. Hopefully, by me resigning, it might help the other members to take the same route."

But three of the other board members, Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons, aren't throwing in towel just yet. In fact, Simmons says the idea is a slap in the face.  He's fought too hard to be asked to step down.

But as for Fuselier's resignation, Simmons says it's about time.

"Well, that's the best thing ever happened to this agency and board since sliced bread. He should have done that a long time ago because he was causing this debacle."

After a request from HUD for all members of the "old" board to step down, Don Fuselier submitted his formal resignation. Fuselier says it is something he wanted to do earlier and hopes it will help the community move forward.

But three other board members are not resigning without a fight. A meeting was held Wednesday with HUD and current members of the Lafayette Housing Authority board.  That meeting was held in order to determine if the members would agree that anyone associated with the prior operation of the Lafayette Housing Authority would step down. 

HUD officials tell us this will give the organization the opportunity to move forward as a fresh start. Fuselier agreed, but the three other board members did not. John Freeman is looking forward to a new future, while Leon Simmons says HUD's request is an insult.


 

LHA Members Cleared

The three LHA members that were under scrutiny for allegedly having an illegal meeting, were cleared of any wrong doing Tuesday.

Since the ruling was handed down by Judge Edward Broussard, John Freeman, Joe Dennis and Leon Simmons were relieved. There were small celebrations and congratulations from supporters in the court room.

The three former board members were cleared of holding an illegal meeting, according to state open meeting laws. The judges ruling stated that, the three men did not, knowingly and willfully participate in an illegal meeting.

The three members had called an executive session that forced out, the public and media. No minutes were taken by voice recorder, or person during the executive session. Therefore, the judge could only go off of what the men testified had happened during that session.

The men stated that no business was conducted during the closed meeting. Other possible violations they were cleared of were, posting of a meeting before the 24 hour dead line, and talking about business concerning resigned LHA workers.

If the three men would have been penalized for violations made they would have had to pay a one hundred dollar fine.

Doug MacDiarmid


LHA Members in Court

The roller coaster ride continues for three ousted Lafayette Housing Authority board members.

Monday Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons spent the day in court with their attorney pitted against District Attorney Mike Harson.

DA Harson filed a civil suit because Joe Dennis John Freeman and Leon Simmons allegedly held an illegal meeting in October last year.

The board members attorney Ernest Johnson says the board members didn't break any laws and even if they had it wasn't on purpose.  But District Attorney Mike Harson said ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

"Anybody can come in and say oh, I didn't know the law and therefore I'm not responsible and I don't think would work on the meetings and public records law and things of that sort."

The judge in the case is set to make his ruling Tuesday.


 

LHA Board Speaks Out

In week full of accusations and reports swirling around the Lafayette Housing Authority three board members whose status is still very much in limbo are now speaking out.

They held a press conference Thursday to explain their side of the story.

Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons said today they want to see charges filed against at least 7 people for their role in this housing authority mess.

Freeman said they plan to seek charges against Joey Durel, Richard Becker, Ricky Hardy, Donald Fuselier, Greg Gachassin and others.

Here's a list of what Freeman says he and his fellow former board members are accusing those parties of doing: abuse of power, conspiracy, obstruction, misrepresentation, conflicts of interest and fraud.

Freeman said the board members were ready to resign from the board in late November that is until they became aware of these alleged wrong doings.

Name: john freeman

"I was gonna stand up for what was right, so I'm gonna stay until this thing is finished, I do not plan to leave the commission or remove myself from any injustice that the administration have betrayed upon us"

Parish President Joey Durel asked for the 3 to be removed from the board but the Lafayette City Council has yet to rule on their dismissal.

 


 

Chris Williams Speaks Out

After the release of a state audit this week, Chris Williams, a former contract worker for the Lafayette Housing Authority is speaking out and his allegations are making waves.

During our live interview with Chris Williams he listed a number of people who he says lied about his involvement in this case and the alleged improprieties that took place.

Three of the people he says have slandered him are Joey Durel, Rickey Hardy and Don Fuselier.

"These three public individuals who represent Lafayette Consolidated Government, the state of Louisiana and LHA made these false allegations against individuals who were making a living" said Williams.

Just minutes after that interview aired we talked to LHA board member Don Fuselier about the allegations that he and others were defaming Williams' name and here's what he had to say.

"An auditing firm is completely independent. We have nothing to do with that they may ask for some input but they look at what's there, the records they look at the records and say they were shotty, no time keeping, it was poorly run."

Chris Williams says that his contracted work with the DHAP program was done so well the housing authority got a big boost out of the deal, but state rep Rickey Hardy disagrees.

 "In terms of DHAP this program actually made the housing authority one point five million dollars in terms of money HUD sent down when expenses taken out it netted the LHA over 1.5 million dollars" said Williams.

 "How can you make money for the federal government when all taxpayers pay the federal government money when in fact it appears to me that it was the reverse Robin Hood, you were stealing from the poor to give to yourself" said Rickey Hardy.

We got curious about the conflict over this one point five million dollars so we went directly to Dan Rodriguez the HUD rep currently in town running the housing authority.

"The housing authority made $550,000 and operating expenses are $350,000" said Rodriguez.

The remainder of those funds will be absorbed by LHA but as for the 1.5 million. HUD Representative Dan Rodriguez says that's an amount he knows nothing about.

Alissa Reitmeier


 

LHA Audit Update

District Attorney Mike Harson told Eyewitness News Tuesday he has a copy of the latest audit of the problem plagued Lafayette Housing Authority.

But, Harson says he hasn't had a chance to review it yet to determine what if any criminal action should be taken against those who were in charge at the time.

State Representative Ricky Hardy, who has been spear heading the investigation, announced Tuesday he would like to see the state legislative auditor broaden its investigation to include a look at the Saint Antoine Gardens Housing Development.

"Well, that was the same entity that was involved with the housing authority and there may be some discrepancies...I'm pretty sure that is the same funding that was allocated by the state "says Hardy.

Representative Hardy says he's concerned operating funds and or building materials intended for the construction of that housing facility may have been misappropriated.

 

 

LHA Audit Findings Released

The Louisiana Legislative Audit on the Lafayette Housing Authority is out, and we got our hands on it.  We looked through all 37 pages of it and found out that the audit looks at seven issues where the auditor says the LHA either used bad business practices or have violated Louisiana Law.

The top two discrepancies in the audit involve the former Executive Director, Walter Guillory, as well as the former Assistant Director Jonathan Carmouche.

In 2005, when Guillory served as the director for not only Lafayette, but for the housing Authority for the city of Opelousas he split his time between the two offices. He was full time in Lafayette and part time in Opelousas. Guillory was still receiving a full time salary in Lafayette that ranged from $111,000 to $154,000, while being compensated for work in Opelousas. The audit suggests that Guillory was paid for work not performed or for services grossly inadequate for such compensation.

The second discrepancy involves Housing inspections that were conducted by former Assistant Director, Jonathan Carmouche. Carmouche was contracted to do these inspections while an employee of the LHA. Carmouche was paid approximately $31,000 for inspections done between 2008 and 2010. This income was combined with his regular income. According to the auditor this created an inappropriate relationship between him and the LHA, and may violate the state's prohibition of employees contracting with their own agency.

If you would like to read the audit for yourself just click the link below.

http://klfy.images.worldnow.com/images/incoming/LHAaudit.pdf


 

LHA Takeover

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has stepped in to help the Louisiana Housing Authority. And they may be just short of taking control. Well the HUD is making a last ditch effort to resolve the issues that the LHA has been facing for quite a while.

Back in August, Joey Durel released three volunteer board members. They went to court and won. But in November, Durel dismissed them again for illegal activities. The board members again appealed their release, however the council refuses to hear their appeal.

Joey Durel is upset about the legal costs this is putting on Lafayette tax payers, and taking the focus away from the people in the housing authority. So in a last ditch effort, Joey Durel called the HUD and asked them to step in. If the board members don't agree to leave, the HUD will completely eliminate the board and take over.

"The truth is we all would prefer that not to happen if possible, I mean HUD would prefer not to go through all that, we would rather have some local people somewhat in control."

Whether the three board members decide to leave or the HUD takes over, Durel says the housing authority should be put back in local control very soon.

Marissa Kerby

 


LHA Update

There is new information on the firing of three Lafayette Housing Authority board members.

After learning about Joe Dennis, Leon Simmons, and John Freeman's intentions to appeal their second firing, District Attorney Mike Harson filed a petition with the court seeking to impose penalties for alleged violations of the open meetings law.

"There are a number of remedies available from injunctions and mandamus to a civil penalty of 100 dollars per infraction per individual" says Harson.

City Parish President Joey Durel fired the three board members citing an October 26th special meeting as the grounds for dismissal. A meeting he claims they held illegally.

Harson says the case has been assigned to Judge Ed Broussard and he should be setting a date shortly.

 


 

After six long months the long awaited legislative audit of the Lafayette Housing Authority is nearly complete.

State auditors met with housing authority officials Monday to go over the preliminary results of their audit of the program.

HUD Regional Director Dan Rodriguez said the results of that audit won't be released for another few weeks.

He said the parties mentioned in the audit have two weeks to contest the results of the audit and the final audit will be released shortly thereafter.

 


 

For a while it looked like things had calmed down at the Lafayette Housing Authority. But, with City-Parish President Joey Durel's second dismissal of three board members just over a week ago, the housing authority is back in a very familiar place.

Durel removed Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons for allegedly holding an illegal meeting on October 26th. Although he declined an on-camera interview, board member Joe Dennis says he and the other board members stand by their previous professions of innocence. He says they've done nothing wrong and never held an illegal meeting on the date in question.

But, State Representative Ricky Hardy says that meeting did happen, and the board had a responsibility to follow the law.

"When you have a public agency or a board of commission everything they do should be done in the light of the public'

Hardy attempted to listen to a tape recording of the October 26th meeting, but found out from LHA workers the tape is blank. He says he doesn't necessarily believe the recorder innocently malfunctioned.

"If that tape recorder was used for the 28th, it was used for the 26th, why the 26th meeting was not taped and the 28th meeting was taped on the same tape, but they say the recorder malfunctioned or was turned off."

Now Hardy wants the authorities to take a look at the tape. Hardy wrote a letter to state police Monday, asking them to investigate the issue. He hopes police can use their resources to find something on the tape human ears can't detect.

Hardy says his goal is to maintain the integrity of public record.  The dismissed board members would only face a $100 fine if found guilty of destroying public records.

We contacted state police, who said they have yet to receive Hardy's letter.

Sean Maginnis

 


 

Missing LHA Executive Session Tape Raises Questions

There is new controversy surrounding the Lafayette Housing Authority.

After being accused of going into executive session illegally on October 26th, Representative Ricky Hardy requested the tape from that meeting. But Tuesday he learned that the tape recorder malfunctioned leaving the tape blank.

Hardy says having it malfunction during that particular meeting is just too convenient.

 "They had a meeting October 28th and the same tape was used they didn't purchase another tape and if it malfunctioned, what was the malfunction? I believe in my opinion that they have injured public records."

This tape does hold importance because if the board members appeal Joey Durel's decision to fire them, it could become evidence.

 


 

LHA Board Members Fired....Again

For the second time in three months, City Parish President Joey Durel has dismissed three Lafayette Housing Authority board members. But those board members suspect there may be ulterior motives behind the decision.

Durel cited an October 26th special meeting as the grounds for dismissal. A meeting he claims they held illegally.

"The fact that they held the meeting improperly as you just asked me. Did they know better? I don't know I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn't know better which shows we need a different skill set on that board."

The meeting allegedly took place behind closed doors the day after Executive Director Walter Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche resigned. But former board member Joe Dennis disagrees.

"We did not have an executive session, despite all what they say and all that you heard, we did not have an executive session."

Other board members like Donald Fuselier agree that the members violated certain open meeting laws in which certain standards must be met.

"They did not have a reason they went into executive session, they did not vote to go into session and did not vote to come out."

The conflicting stories are making the ousted board members wonder what's really going on.

"I'm suspicious, that's all I can say, something is going on" says Former member Joe Dennis.

Durel also accused the board members of neglect of duty and misconduct in office. We'll keep you updated on this story as more information becomes available.

Marissa Kerby

 


 

LHA Board Member Seeks Charges Against Re-Instated Members

New information is being released on the embattled Lafayette Housing Authority.

TV10 has obtained a copy of a letter that board member Don Fuslier sent to District Attorney Mike Harson.

In the letter Fuslier asks the District Attorney to look into filing criminal charges against three reinstated members for violating the open meeting law.

Fuslier claims that Joe Dennis, Leon Simmons, and John Freeman violated the law last month when they held an executive session without notice.

Dear District Attorney Harson:

As a member of the bar, an officer of the court, a former prosecutor and a sitting commissioner of the Lafayette Housing Authority, I am seeking the filing of criminal charges against three reinstated members of the Lafayette Housing Authority for violation of the Open Meetings Law.

 The three court ordered reinstated members: Joe Dennis, Leon Simmons, and John Freeman violated the Open Meetings Law by holding an executive session on October 26th, 2010, without complying with statutorily requirements. No public notice was placed on the outside of the door and the media was asked to leave the room. The reason alleged for the executive session was to be discussion of an LHA employee personnel matter. The employee in question was not notified in regard to the executive session in order to be in attendance at said meeting. District Attorney Harson, there are obviously a myriad of violations of the Open Meetings Law.      

Donald R. Fuslier

 


 

 

LHA Board Update

The in-fighting continues at the Lafayette Housing Authority amidst new allegations from the city-parish president.

Consolidated President Joey Durel is accusing LHA Board Members of misconduct in office, but at least one board member says Durel's claims are unfounded.

The board has been at odds with Joey Durel since they were reinstated several weeks ago, and now Durel is accusing the board of breaking state law.

In a letter obtained by TV10, Parish President Joey Durel accuses board members Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons of breaking state open meeting laws.

We got in touch with board member Joe Dennis, who says that's just not the case.

"There was no misconduct, there was no misconduct because there was no illegal meeting as he's charging, there was no illegal meeting and no misconduct on our part."

The board held a meeting on October 26th, just days after former Executive Director Walter Guillory resigned. Dennis says the original reason for the meeting was to hold a closed, executive session to discuss Walter Guillory's future with the LHA.

In his letter, Parish President Joey Durel quoted state law in saying; "to discuss the character, professional competence...of a person, the person must be notified...at least 24 hours in advance."

But Dennis says the board didn't discuss any person during their executive session on the 26th.

"They resigned that Monday so we didn't have anything to go on. We didn't go in to executive session at all, we didn't go in the 26th or the 28th."

Durel's letter doesn't specify which person wasn't notified of that session, but he goes on to say "the holding of an executive session under these circumstances constitutes misconduct in office."

We tried to get in touch with Durel to elaborate on the issue, but he declined comment on the matter.

Dennis says he can't explain why Durel is making these allegations.

"It's puzzling to me because I don't understand what it is he's trying to do. What it is he's trying to do? I don't know"

 


LHA Update 

In the latest twist to the Lafayette Housing Authority Saga, the Housing Authority Board nearly held an illegal meeting on Saturday Night.

After stern warnings from the Regional Department of Housing and Urban Development, The board planned to hold a meeting on Saturday night, but cancelled it because it would have violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

They needed to give 24 hours public notice and failed to do so.

On Friday, HUD Regional Director Justin Ormsby warned the board in a letter to not spend any money without consulting HUD Monitor Dan Rodriguez after.

Rodriguez sent the letter after reading a news article that said the board would consider paying fired DHAP workers last week.

But, board member Joe Dennis says Saturday's canceled housing authority board meeting was never meant to address the issue of paying DHAP workers.

"That's gonna be an issue down the road sometime, we're going to have to ask Mr. Rodriguez because we're not going to make any decision".

Dennis says the only item on the agenda was appointing a new secretary.

The board will now hold that meeting on Tuesday at 5:30PM.

  


 

 

LHA Board Members Warned

In the latest wrinkle in the Lafayette Housing Authority saga, board members got a pointed reminder that they risk being shut down if they even consider spending any money without obtaining federal authorization first.

Thursday night the board brought up paying several fired D-HAP case workers back pay.

Friday Eyewitness News obtained an e-mail addressed to the LHA Board from HUD Region 6 Director C-Donald Babers chastising the board for even considering using any HUD funds.

In the letter Babers states "The LHA Board of Commissioners will not make any payments nor will it commit to making any payment or expenditure of any kind without the express concurrence of the HUD monitor".

Babers also warned the commissioners to avoid involving themselves in the day to day operations of the housing authority, even threatening to disband the commission and have HUD take over total control of the LHA.

 


 

Email from HUD Regional Director to LHA Board Member John Freeman

Mr. Freeman, I read the paper this morning and wanted to touch base with you. I hope they got their story wrong. The paper indicated that the LHA Board was going to consider payments for former employees of LHA. I hope they have their facts wrong. Let me reiterate our understanding of the agreement that was made last week.

The LHA Board of Commissioners will not make any payments, nor will it commit to making any payment or expenditure of any kind without the express concurrence of the HUD Monitor, Dan Rodriguez. In addition, it is essential that the members of the Board of Commissioners refrain from becoming actively involved in the day to day operations of the Agency. Until such time as there is an interim Executive Director or a permanent Executive Director, Dan Rodriguez is responsible for providing guidance to the staff. Please ask the members of your board to resist speaking directly to staff about LHA business, and ask them to go through Mr. Rodriguez. We must be able to have an effective level of trust if we are to move forward. As I indicated previously, if we cannot find common ground on this strategy, HUD may be forced to declare a breach and take complete control of the agency and act as both Executive Director and board. I would prefer that we work together to get the organization back on track. I am confident that within a short period of time the LHA will have competent staff leadership, and a renewed and trained board to lead the agency. Thanks for our continuing cooperation.  

I do not have an email address for Mr. Simmons or Mr. Fuselier, so please share this message with them. Thanks.

 

Regional Director, Region VI, Office of Public Housing
US Department of Housing and Urban Development

 


 

LHA Board Update

The Lafayette Housing Authority board is once again operating at full strength. But, even with all board seats filled, there's still a quagmire of issues the board has to deal with in the wake of former Executive Director Walter Guillory's resignation.

Board member Donald Fuselier hasn't attended a board meeting since city-parish president Joey Durel removed 6 members for the housing authority board.  He said his attendance Thursday night was because of Durel's new board appointment, and not because of the other board members call for him to step down.

"We have a full, five member board where we can really conduct business. That's the only reason, the request for me to resign had nothing to do with it."

The now full board decided to close out several bank accounts associated with problems found in the LHA audit, including a nearly empty account used for maintenance funds and employee salaries associated with Saint Antoine Gardens.

"I think it's to kinda start separating us from that because I don't think we were supposed to give it any of our money, which it seems like what they say tonight, we did" said Shirley Vije.

Toward the end of the meeting, there was heated debate when former Disaster Housing Assistance Program case worker Myra Parker said she was fired without cause. She represented five case workers fired by the LHA board, all trying to recoup their lost wages.

"I hope justice is done and we are vindicated. Because the DHAP workers did nothing wrong" said Parker.

The board ultimately chose to review her evidence and rule at their next meeting.

We also spoke with board member John Freeman after the meeting, who told us the five member board now in place will represent both Abbeville and Broussard, but didn't offer much insight as to how that would be accomplished.  He said the two board members who used to represent those two areas were never, according to by-laws, official members of the board.

Sean Maginnis

 


Simmons Remains on LHA Board

Wednesday was a day of confusion and indecisiveness for the Lafayette Housing Authority.  This after one board member said he would resign, only to change his mind less than an hour later.

Parish President Joey Durel had asked for Leon Simmons resignation after an aggressive run in with TV10 photographer Elwood Shields on Monday.

Video footage shows Simmons shoving the camera while Shields attempted to film resigned Executive Director Walter Guillory.

We spoke one on one with Simmons Wednesday and he told us, he planned to resign over the incident. But less than an hour after our interview, Simmons called back and said he does not plan to resign. He says he's gone through too much to give up and throw in the towel. And although he doesn't plan to resign, he did say he's sorry what happened on Monday.

"I want to apologize also to the public for not being a total disappointment, but for those who fought for me in the battle to be reinstated on the board."

Sean Maginnis

 


LHA Member Aggressive With TV10

A member of the Lafayette Housing Commission became aggressive with a member of the TV10 staff Monday. That action could cost him his position.

As Walter Guillory walks out of the LHA offices after his resignation announcement, he was followed by LHA staff and board members.

As our photographer tried getting video footage of Guillory, Leon Simmons grabbed the lens of our camera. When his hand was pushed down, he tried several more times to touch the camera.

At that point he was warned by veteran videographer Elwood Shields stating; "You can't put your hand on my camera, man."

Even Walter Guillory encouraged Simmons to stop. But, Simmons continued his display of disappointment over the resignation.

"This is a dark day, okay? put your camera away" said Simmons.

In the footage Simmons can be seen throwing his coffee at our feet. Once Guillory is gone, Simmons turns his attention to the staff, yelling.

"Don't let them question none of yall."

He continued to bark at the staff to not comment.

"Yall go on to work and don't comment to none of them."

"Until they all leave nobody comment nobody"

Tuesday was the first time the video aired and when Commissioner Don Fuselier, the only board member not fired by Joey Durel, got wind of incident and he requested to see the video.

"It's unbecoming of a public servant. He's got to understand he's a public servant as a commissioner of the Housing Board and shouldn't act that way" said Fuselier.

His aggression toward our photographer was only topped by his persistence.

"He attempted to do it twice and somebody had to push his hand away. I'm a former prosecutor as far as I'm concerned that's simple battery and assault."

We spoke directly to Lafayette Parish President Joey Durel about Leon Simmons' future with the Lafayette housing commission and he said; "His behavior was certainly inappropriate for a housing authority board member and as a result of that we're going to ask him to step down."

If you'd like to see the entire interaction with the board member and our photographer, you can click the video link.

LHA Seeking Interim Director

Members of the Lafayette Housing Authority Board met Tuesday to address personnel issues in the organization that have been under so much scrutiny.

Although we don't know who the executive director is, we do know who it won't be. Well after the meeting Wednesday we have a little better idea of how the dust will settle following Walter Guillory and Jonathon Carmouches resignations.

Board member John Freeman will take over check signing duties for the LHA, effective immediately. He won't, however, be acting as Executive Director, even in a temporary role. He said he doesn't have the technical know-how to do the job.

Freeman said the board is aggressively seeking an interim director, and that employees will work together to fill Guillory's shoes until that time.

Another member of the Department of Housing and Urban Developments has arrived in Lafayette to help get the local housing authority back on its feet.

The new arrival wasted little time in a meeting Tuesday with consolidated president Joey Durel to discuss the direction in which HUD will help the city lead the board in the coming months.

The HUD rep has also indicated efforts to locate a new executive director for the housing authority will include a national search.

 


 

 

LHA  Resignations

Yet another shake up at the Lafayette Housing Authority, this time, the man at the center of months of scrutiny has finally made his exit.

Monday morning LHA Executive Director Walter Guillory resigned from his position, along with Deputy Housing Authority Director Jonathan Carmouche.

"The writing was on the wall. He was either going to resign or be terminated" says LHA Commissioner Don Fuselier.

While some say the resignation came as a total shock, commissioners say Guillory's departure from the housing authority is just the first of many administrative changes to come.

"We've had discussions with commissioners after this audit and its quite obvious there were some serious leadership problems" says LHA Commissioner John Freeman.

Deputy Director Jonathon Carmouche, also relinquished his title. While Walter Guillory has never admitted to any misconduct, John Freeman says the audit says it all.

"No one mentioned anything about wrongdoing. There was nothing said about wrongdoing. Whatever the audit stated he didn't dispute it."

Until the executive director position is filled, Personnel Director Lydia Bergeron and Commissioner John Freeman will be running the board.


Wednesday morning the US Department of Housing and Urban Development sent representatives to Lafayette to assess the Operations of LHA.

The representatives from HUD had their first meeting with Executive Director Walter Guillory to discuss how they are going to get the LHA program back on track

Joe Dennis and John Freeman, two of the board members removed by City Parish President Joey Durel and then reinstated last week also showed up at the housing authority to hear some of the initial recommendations HUD had for the commissioners.

"All the recommendations are good especially when you have issues that have been raised publicly the way these issues have. You want to get the best of the knowledge people have."

HUD is responsible for most of LHA's funding so he will be meeting with the LHA board as well as members of the community to determine a course of action.

HUD officials Justin Ormsby emphasized that this is not a formal takeover of the housing authority but rather a joint effort to see that the individuals who are entitled to these funds get them.

"The members of the commission indicated they'll be fully cooperative. They were interested in getting the organization back on track. We're all going to work together for the benefit of the people here... What more can you ask for."

The HUD reps will be in Lafayette working with LHA until they feel the program is back on track.

A vital part of getting that program on the right track is going to be identifying and fixing the problems found in the infamous 2008-2009 audit. That audit was finally officially received and reviewed by the board of commissioners Wednesday.

Alissa Reitmeier

 


 

LHA Board Meeting Wednesday

Wednesday night could make for an interesting Lafayette Housing Authority board meeting.

Last week a judge reinstated three members of the board Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons who were relieved of their duties by Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel.

Durel had already named new board members to the board. The newly-reinstated board members are expected to be in attendance.

The main question is; Will Don Fuselier be there for a quorum to be reached. Fuselier was not at the last meeting Denying a quorum to a meeting where the audits that started the LHA controversy was planned to be taken up.

 


LHA Members Reinstated

A district judge reinstated the three Fired Lafayette Housing Authority Board Members.  Judge Edward Rubin ruled in favor of three men appealing their removal from the board and they are now once again commissioners of the LHA board.

A district judge reinstated the three Fired Lafayette Housing Authority Board Members.  Judge Edward Rubin ruled in favor of three men appealing their removal from the board and they are now once again commissioners of the LHA board.

In paperwork obtained from the court proceedings, Rubin outlines why he chose to reinstate the board members.  Joe Dennis, John freeman and Leon Simmons, were removed from the board following irregularities found in audits of the housing authority program in 2008 and 2009.  Dennis, Freeman and Simmons didn't start working for the LHA until 2009, and that is partially what saved their jobs.  Rubin said the board members couldn't be held responsible for the 2008 audit when they weren't even members of the board at that time.  Furthermore, Rubin said if one board member was to be fired for problems with the audit, then all of them should have been fired.  And because Donald Fuselier, who was a member of the board during both audits in question, wasn't fired, Rubin determined the other members firings to be quote "arbitrary and capricious".

Sean Maginnis


 

FBI Investigating Housing Authority

Three members of the Lafayette Housing Authority Board of Commissioners were abruptly removed from their positions this week and it seems there is even more to the story than just that.

Much more was uncovered Thursday, as we learned that the FBI is now investigating the housing authority.

State Representative Rickey Hardy tells us the feds were brought in, after a legislative audit was performed on the agency. That audit found several discrepancies, including some by former board member Chris Williams.

"We have to weed out corruption and be able to eradicate that in the state. It's happening everywhere, it's not an isolated incident" says Hardy.

Those investigating found that Williams was clocking in simultaneous work hours with three different agencies, earning pay for jobs he wasn't actually doing.

According to Preventative Rickey Hardy, Williams was earning a paycheck from the housing authority, along with one from UL where he taught classes, in addition to another check from the SMILE community action agency.

Hardy says he got involved with the matter after a member of the housing authority asked for his help in getting a legislative audit done.  Hardy says he won't back down from the investigation until the problem is solved.

"You have a poverty pimpster who is robbing the community, robbing SMILE community agents, robbing the housing authority, and placating the university" says Hardy.

Williams was reportedly earning $65,000 from SMILE, $85,000 from the Lafayette Housing Authority and $40,000 a year working as a professor at UL. Added together, Williams was making nearly 200,000 dollars a year.


 

Housing Board Members Removed

City Parish President Joey Durel has removed three members of the Lafayette Housing Authority board, Joseph Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons.

Durel's action stems from an audit saying the board failed to maintain time cards on $243,000 used to pay salaries of seven contractors.

Dennis argues the board had not had a chance to review and rectify the situation.  Dennis says Durel should have had the courtesy to allow long standing members to complete their terms that end in a couple of months.

Durel says he had to act swiftly.

"I felt like we needed someone in there with the expertise that can go in and clean things up with the idea that maybe they're only there temporarily. But right now that's what we need."

Durel is responsible for the appointment of five of them.

In addition to the three who stepped down, one member has resigned and one will maintain his position on the board.

For more click the video link.

 

 


 


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