HUD: ex-commissioners can't meet at agency's offices

by Leslie Turk

The attorney for three former (or is it current?) LHA board members told members of the media Monday that the trio will resume meeting at the housing authority's offices. Not so, says HUD spokeswoman Patricia Campbell.

The Advocate reported Tuesday that Ernest Johnson, the attorney for thrice-removed Lafayette Housing Authority commissioners Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons, said while the trio had been meeting at the Southern Development Foundation Business Center on Surrey Street, HUD has agreed to let them meet again at the housing agency's offices.

"No, that is not true," U.S. Housing and Urban Development spokeswoman Patricia Campbell wrote in an email response to The Independent's question about Johnson's statement.

In its Tuesday story, The Advocate quoted Campbell saying the trio is not legally authorized to oversee the housing authority.

Dennis, Freeman and Simmons were twice removed by City-Parish President Joey Durel, first in August 2010 after a blistering audit of the agency and again in November 2010 after an alleged illegal executive session, and twice reinstated by state District Judge Ed Rubin. Rubin held Durel in contempt of court for the second removal; Durel is appealing the contempt ruling.

The three commission members were removed in March for a third time when HUD took control of the troubled agency. The action eliminated the LHA board, including the trio of members fighting in court to be reinstated and newly appointed members, said Dan Rodriguez, the HUD official who is acting executive director for the LHA.

Despite HUD's takeover, the group has continued to meet as a board, holding its third meeting in two months Monday, according to The Advocate. The three are questioning whether HUD followed the law in assuming control of the agency. Read more in The Advocate's report here.