New Orleans council votes unanimously to reinstate HANO board member Cantrell terminated

“Ms. Jasper was terminated because she refused to be obedient and loyal to a failing administration. Instead, Ms. Jasper was loyal and obedient to the people of public housing and the people of New Orleans.”
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 5:03 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office said Wednesday it will respect the decision of New Orleans City Council to reinstate a member of the board of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) after Cantrell removed her following complaints from other HANO board members.

Sharon Jasper, a longtime public housing advocate and President of HANO’s Section 8 Resident Council, was removed in late October after some board members accused her of being disruptive and inciting threats and aggression toward the HANO board and employees.

“Rather than help maintain an atmosphere of respect and decorum during the public board meeting, Ms. Jasper routinely invited residents to meetings to express their hostility and their disdain for the agency and its employees,” said Evette Hestor, Executive Director of HANO, during Jasper’s appeal hearing in city council.

Councilmembers took issue with the manner in which Cantrell carried out the termination, saying Jasper did not receive proper notification and that the administration did not cite specifics in its reasoning.

HANO Board President Carol Johnson had called Cantrell following a disruptive public meeting, complaining Jasper had been inciting the crowd. Cantrell quickly removed Jasper, with her administration sending notice later in November.

The administration was only able to point to a video of the meeting when asked to provide evidence backing up their assertions.

“She had not only not been given proper notice, she had been given no direct notice, which is problematic,” said Councilman JP Morrell. “The notice that was sent on [November] 17th, it is not sufficient to say, ‘neglect of duty and misconduct in office’ without citing what the neglect of duty or what the misconduct in office was.”

But advocates, standing behind Jasper, said she is the only member of HANO’s board that is fighting on behalf of HANO residents.

“When it comes to threats, the City of New Orleans has allowed people in this city to be threatened daily based on the housing conditions that people are living in every day,” said Angela Kinlaw during public comment. “Ms. Jasper represents speaking up on behalf of the people of New Orleans.”

On a vote of 5-0, the council voted to reinstate Jasper on the board, a move that led to cheers from dozens of residents in attendance.

“The HANO board were the ones who came to the Mayor and expressed their disappointment in Ms. Jasper and asked [the Mayor], in her authority as appointing person, to remove Ms. Jasper from the board,” said Cantrell spokesperson Gregory Joseph. “This is not a decision that the mayor made, this is the working relationship with the board, and it’s a great working relationship. This is the way that all boards operate, and the board members came to the mayor and raised some really important concerns.”

Advocates cheered the council’s decision, stating that Jasper has been responsive when HANO residents voice complaints, unlike other members of the HANO board, they said.

“Ms. Jasper was terminated because she refused to be obedient and loyal to a failing administration. Instead, Ms. Jasper was loyal and obedient to the people of public housing and the people of New Orleans,” said W.C. Johnson, President of the group Community United for Change.

Johnson, who has also advocated for HANO residents at board meetings in the past, said residents are “scolded” when they voice complaints and are emotional when they go to HANO board meetings because they don’t feel action has been taken to resolve them.

“HANO takes the side of the landlords, especially third-party landlords before they even investigate to see what’s going on,” Johnson said. “Ms. Jasper goes out to these apartments, to these homes to inspect, to see what the problem is. That’s why they want her off this board, she has tried to get board members to do this. They refuse to do it.”

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