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Attorney grills JP president over Housing Authority Board ousters

Gretna, La. — Jefferson Parish President John Young spent much of Friday being grilled by an attorney for some ousted commissioners on the parish's Housing Authority Board.

Young ordered in December that six commissioners be booted from the board after it refused to fire a top agency employee.  Now some of the board members in question are fighting Young's decision in court and before the Parish Council. Friday, their appeal hearing before the council got under way.

Last summer the inspector general's office within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said some of the Housing Authority's financial practices violated federal law. That prompted calls from parish leaders to have the agency's executive director at the time, Barry Bordelon, removed.

Bordelon resigned and soon after was hired for another supervisory position with the Housing Authority. That rubbed Young the wrong way.

"Based upon what's included in that report, that was sufficient evidence for me to realize he should not be involved in activity, especially in the hierarchy and management at the Housing Authority," Young stated while testifying during the hearing.

In December, Young ordered the Housing Authority board to fire Bordelon from his latest position and when that did not happen, Young ordered that six of the commissioners be removed from the board.

"When they didn't obey Mr. Young's orders he booted them and you can see he only booted the six that didn't vote the way he wanted them to vote," said attorney Robert Garrity who represents some of the ousted board commissioners.

The 2012 audit found that the Housing Authority did not follow federal requirements in awarding accounting and legal contracts.

"The board has the fiduciary responsibility… to make sure that all the money that comes to the Housing Authority is properly spent and accounted for.  And I can tell you, in the OIG report there's over $200,000 that they found that was ineligible and over $400,000 that was unsupported in terms of appropriations," Young said.

"Give me a specific expenditure that HUD has said these people did wrong and have got to pay it back," said Garrity to Young.

"Okay, let's talk about the per diem. HUD said the per diems were compensation and not reimbursement," Young said in response.

The audit found that federal law was violated when board members were paid more than $100,000 from the Section 8 Fund to perform inspections.

Garrity said Young still went too far in ousting board commissioners.

"I sometimes don't think before I talk, but yes, I did call him 'King John' and supreme commander and unfortunately that's what he acted like. I think it would have been prudent to wait for HUD to finish their business, and they're going to issue a report in March and if the findings are supported, then fine, these guys will resign.  If the findings are not supported then there's no cause to terminate them," Garrity said.

After more than five hours of Young answering questions, the Parish Council adjourned the meeting with the intention of resuming it next week.

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