FOX 8 Defenders: Disturbing elevation grant program allegations

New Orleans -- Charles Banks is rebuilding his Lower 9th Ward home stronger and higher, but nearly seven years after Katrina, he can't move home, and what he says has gotten in the way is disturbing.

"They told me that everything needed to be elevated down here, said Banks. The 64-year-old did just that after his home on Flood Street floated away during Katrina.

Banks built his new home seven feet higher, and largely with Road Home dollars the retired carpenter told FOX 8 he did most of the work himself. On a brief tour inside his house, Banks pointed out the kitchen cabinets he said he built with his own hands.

However, the home's not finished, and while the state has an elevation grant program to help people like him, Banks hasn't gotten anywhere. He explained that its been two years since he filled out an application to be reimbursed for elevation expenses.

"Now they're telling me they fired all the workers I had.. everybody that was my worker. Every month or so they would change workers. The new worker will tell you go get this.. go get that.. all different kind of papers, and then another worker will take over and say, I don't need these papers, said Banks. What he said the hazard mitigation analysts, sort of like case workers did to him is almost unimaginable.

"After I told him I wasn't gonna do that, they got mad with me.. and put me in the punishing chamber, said Banks. While Banks sub-contracted the elevation work himself, he said, they wanted me to sign a promissory note with a contractor for $80,000, saying that he done this." Banks said the workers pressured him to say a specific contractor did the work. "They're trying to get me to say that another contractor built this house.. that never existed.. and that's straight up fraudry (sic), said Banks.

It was at that point Banks said the workers literally destroyed his HMGP file full of his documents and receipts right in front of him. "They physically tear some up and throw the rest of it away, and said it wasn't no good, said Banks.

The FOX 8 Defenders and National Council of Jewish Women have been following Banks and his struggles for the last couple of years, and now, it turns out one of the workers Banks referred to is a convicted bank thief.

Federal court documents detail that Tanya Kenner was able to steal $326,000 from Hibernia National Bank from 1999 to 2005, and in 2006 pled guilty.

The states HMGP spokesperson, Christina Stephens explained Kenner supervised a group of analysts who handled homeowner applications. According to Stephens, Kenner was an employee of a state sub-contractor and hasn't worked with the program since November.

The professional services firm, GCR, Inc., hired Kenner in 2009 as part of the staff for The Shaw Group, another one of the state's sub-contractors. GCRs human resources director told FOX 8 criminal background checks on Kenner came back clear, and the firm said she resigned three months ago.

In an email statement, Stephens said, "in order to protect homeowners, we are taking a second look at files from the team led by Ms. Kenner when she was with the program to make sure homeowners were treated fairly, including making sure homeowners were properly reimbursed for eligible elevation expenses."

Charles Banks who's still waiting to get back home nearly seven years after the storm wonders how they'll review his file. After all he claims Kenner and others destroyed it.
The name Tanya Kenner is also listed in a recent four count indictment filed in Louisianas 19th Judicial District Court. Assistant State Attorney General David Caldwell confirmed that the woman named in the indictment is the same Tanya Kenner who was working under the HMGP program. The indictment of contractor Ricky Davis of Gretna accuses Kenner and other elevation pro