Hearing set on commissioners

The Jefferson Parish Council will decide the fate of five commissioners who oversee the parish’s embattled Jefferson Parish Housing Authority in March.

Council Chairman Chris Roberts announced a special meeting March 1 where board members will discuss whether a majority of the board should be replaced as requested by Parish President John Young. The meeting will be at the parish’s West Bank chambers at 10 a.m.

The council will determine the fates of commissioners Hunley Dufour, Patrick Pierson, William Boada, Mary Snowden and Simone Scanio. Commissioner Terrell Harris also was removed from the board but declined to appeal the decision.

Young cited “neglect of duty” when he removed them as commissioners.

Roberts said the council is ready to bring some closure to the housing authority issue, although he said he was miffed that the parish needed a special hearing to remove commissioners from the board.

“The action that the council took today is the final step needed to ratify actions taken by Mr. Young,” Roberts said.

Councilman Mark Spears said that although Roberts discussed ratifying Young’s decision, he will need to hear the testimony before he decides what direction he wants to take.

The hearing will be the culmination of months of accusations and investigations into the board in the wake of a federal audit in the summer that outlined serious concerns about how the agency does business.

Executive Director Barry Bordelon resigned after that audit was released but later was rehired by the authority in another position.

Young removed the commissioners after he began conducting his own investigation into the agency’s dealings with Bordelon. He was particularly angered at the decision to rehire Bordelon, and the fact that commissioners used several stalling tactics to avoid a vote on firing Bordelon.

Commissioner Patrick Pierson said he hadn’t been officially notified of the hearing date yet and was leery about commenting on it until he’d had time to discuss the issue with an attorney representing the commissioners.

He said he is hoping for a positive outcome in the hearing.

“Obviously I hope that they recognize that we’re board members,” Pierson said.

Pierson noted that the authority still is finalizing its response to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s audit of its finances and plans to submit that response to federal officials this week.

HUD’s Inspector General found widespread issues with the authority’s spending and said officials had to provide explanations for nearly $700,000 in spending.

Among the audit’s findings were that the authority spent more than $89,000 in improper payments to attorney Wayne Mancuso; improperly spent more than $100,000 on payments for commissioners; improperly spent more than $240,000 on security services from four Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies; and improperly paid state Rep. Girod Jackson III’s company Diversified Ventures more than $90,000.

However, a Nevada consultant hired by the authority to prepare its response to HUD said it’s unlikely that the authority will have to repay any money to HUD. That consultant said no laws were violated by the payments to the commissioners, and documentation validates most of the other payments.

Pierson said the authority’s focus right now is getting its paperwork in to HUD.

The authority also adopted several new guidelines for handling financial matters after hearing the report from its consultant.

Pierson previously has expressed dismay that he asked Bordelon to resign his position after the audit’s findings initially broke because he believes now that decision was premature.

The parish has filed a lawsuit in 24th Judicial District Court seeking to bar the commissioners from making any more decisions because parish officials argue that they no longer lawfully serve as commissioners.