Former LHA board members’ appeals on Tuesday agenda
They’ll have to sit through a joint Lafayette City-Parish Council/Lafayette Public Utilities Authority meeting and a special Lafayette Public Power Authority meeting before their appeals are heard, but three dismissed Lafayette Housing Authority board members will have their say tonight in a special meeting of the council.
Removed in mid-August by City-Parish President Joey Durel amid a scathing review of the LHA’s operations and management by an independent auditor, Joe Dennis, John Freeman Jr. and Leon Simmons contend they were unfairly dismissed. In part, they contend the decision to remove them was made before they were able to fully review the audit. The audit was submitted to the LHA with a June 30 cover letter addressing the board of commissioners and was sent to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor on July 14, but board members say they were not shown the report; its findings came to light only after then-board Chairman Buddy Webb called the Monroe-based auditor Aug. 5 for a copy of it. Webb's inquiry was prompted by LHA Executive Director Walter Guillory's effort to call a board meeting to hire a new auditing firm.
The audit of LHA’s 2009 operations, however, pointed out a number of problems also cited in the 2008 independent audit, issues that the LHA failed to address — and further evidence board members had been asleep at the wheel for some time. On Aug. 13, the board called a special meeting to terminate five Disaster Housing Assistance Program case managers, one of whom was former City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, after the audit found numerous discrepancies in how the case managers were compensated (each was paid $37 an hour for 40 hours of work per week, despite that some held other jobs). In that meeting, attended by this reporter, not a single board member expressed outrage at the findings contained in the report (board member Donald Fuselier was out of town on business and did not attend), vowing only to put new policies in place to avoid these problems in the future.
Durel, who is authorized to appoint five LHA board members, also later dismissed board members Gertrude Batiste and Gregory Day, after he got the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Officials in the cities of Broussard and Abbeville, whose Section 8 programs are under the umbrella of the LHA, had appointed Batiste and Day, respectively. Durel says HUD made it clear to him that the red flags raised by the independent auditor about how the LHA was being run were justification for dismissing the board and replacing it with new members.
Durel plans to keep only one board member, Fuselier, a former city prosecutor, and was in the process of naming a new board before the appeals were filed with the city-parish council. Webb resigned from the board after the 2009 audit was released, citing both disappointment with Guillory's stewardship of the agency and health problems.
Both HUD and the legislative auditor have been reviewing the LHA’s operations for more than a month; the FBI and state inspector general are conducting investigations as well. Read more on the LHA’s problems here.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
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.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.