Marrero — Miffed at what they call inaccurate and insulting attacks, three commissioners for the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority have sought an injunction barring the Jefferson Parish Council from removing them from office, just as the Parish Council decided to bar the board from meeting in its chambers.
At the same time, Parish President John Young has begun his own investigation into the beleaguered agency.
Steven Faulkner, an attorney for commissioners Hunley Dufour Jr., William Boada Sr. and Patrick Pierson, is seeking a preliminary injunction that would prevent the council from removing the three commissioners. Last month, the council voted to remove the three men in response to a scathing audit completed by the Office of the Inspector General for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in July. A hearing on the injunction is set for Friday.
Faulkner said the council ignored the law when it sought his clients’ removal, since the removal of commissioners is solely up to the parish president. He added that his clients are also upset because they feel that they were unfairly targeted by the council, while the other six commissioners have escaped notice.
“The council is doing what they’re not legally authorized to do,” Faulkner said. “Nothing they (the housing authority) wanted to do would have ever passed with just their three votes.”
At the core of the dispute is the federal audit, which alleged that the authority improperly spent more than $202,000 and improperly documented more than $453,000 in additional spending. That audit, which is still being reviewed by HUD, questioned whether the agency was plagued by waste and fraud under former Executive Director Barry Bordelon. Bordelon resigned after receiving heavy criticism but was hired back recently in another capacity.
Parish Council members Elton Lagasse and Christopher Roberts have been two of the most vocal critics of the authority, questioning whether commissioners were too cozy with Bordelon to provide proper oversight. The Citizens For Good Government, a parish watchdog organization, noted that Bordelon has been dogged by questions about how he’s spent the authority’s money since 2000, when he was a member of the board of commissioners. On Wednesday, after discussing the authority in executive session, the parish council moved forward with plans to bar it from meeting in the council chambers.
Pierson has vigorously defended the board’s relationship with Bordelon and questions the audit’s integrity. In the board’s official response to the audit, commissioners pointed to several factual and procedural errors and claimed auditors ignored relevant documentation in reaching a pre-determined conclusion.
Faulkner said he’s not certain about the allegations in the audit and acknowledged that board has at times operated as a rubber stamp for Bordelon. But, he said, he’s also positive the Parish Council made its decision in haste and in error. He noted that the vast majority of the board’s decisions were made with unanimous approval, but only three board members have been asked to resign for “neglect of duty.”
“It’s sort of a rush to judge on the council’s part,” said Faulkner, who added that it’s interesting that only those board members appointed by non-sitting council members were asked to step down. “The problem is nine people, not three people.”
But wrangling between the council and the commissioners could soon be moot now that Young’s office is investigating the board.
ast week, Young requested a slew of documents from the authority as well as individual meetings with every commissioner. He is planning to review checks, bank statements, meeting minutes and contracts to see if Bordelon or the board behaved improperly.
Young said he’s not sure how long the review will take, but it is a priority for his office. He said he’s going to act within the powers granted to him by the law, and if problems are discovered he will take action.
“That’s what I’m tasked to do under the statute,” Young said. “As soon as I get the documents, we’re going to proceed expeditiously.”
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