Lafayette authority settles suit filed by former councilman

The Lafayette Housing Authority on Thursday approved a $30,000 settlement with former Lafayette Councilman Chris Williams, who sued when the authority stopped paying him for case management work after a state audit questioned his salary and whether he was working the hours he billed the agency.

Williams’ contract was one of several issues cited in a 2010 state audit that found widespread problems and questionable expenses at the housing authority.

The audit led to the resignations of Executive Director Walter O. Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche.

Guillory pleaded guilty to federal charges earlier this year for approving illegal no-bid contracts and for asking companies that did business with the housing authority to make annual donations to a youth baseball team he sponsored.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dissolved the local housing authority board in 2011 and took over management of the agency.

The settlement with Williams was worked out earlier this year and formally approved Thursday by Justin Ormsby, a HUD administrator who now oversees the local housing authority.

Ormsby said he felt the housing authority was on “firm ground” in the case, but the settlement was made to save legal expenses and put the 3-year-old litigation to rest — one of the last remaining issues to be resolved after the 2010 shake-up at LHA.

“We are going to try to close the chapter of this activity and move forward,” Ormsby said at a Thursday LHA meeting. “... I am going to approve this settlement, reluctantly, but I will.”

Williams’ lawsuit was over a contract he signed with LHA to serve as a case manager for a federal housing program to help families displaced by hurricanes.

The former councilman’s lawsuit sought money he would have been paid had LHA not cut short the contracts for him and four other case managers in 2010 after the audit questioned their payments.

A follow-up audit in 2011 that dug deep into problems noted payments to some case managers ballooned from $11 an hour to $37 an hour in two years.

Williams’ wage started at $16 an hour in January 2008 and rose to $30 an hour by December 2008, plus a $600-a-month car allowance, according to his lawsuit.

The audit also stated that Williams submitted time sheets for 40 hours a week to the housing authority while working a full-time job as a counselor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Pay records from the housing authority indicate Williams reported working nights and weekends as a housing case manager, but a comparison of time sheets found an overlap of 91 hours billed to both UL-Lafayette and the housing authority, according to the audit.

Williams denied allegations of double dipping.

In a written response to the auditor’s findings, Williams said he contracted with the housing authority through his nonprofit group, Lafayette Training and Career Development, and the work for the housing authority was performed not only by him but also by his employees.

The housing authority time sheets were signed by Williams, but Williams told auditors that “his signature did not indicate that the hours shown on the time sheet were his alone.”

Williams could provide no records showing what hours his employees had worked, according to the audit.

The settlement Williams reached with the housing authority bars him from discussing its terms or the allegations he made in the lawsuit.

Williams served 12 years on the City-Parish Council, leaving in 2008.