MARRERO, La. - Tempers flared Wednesday night during a regularly scheduled meeting at the embattled Jefferson Parish Housing Authority.
The issue? Whether former executive director Barry Bordelon should still be on agency payroll.
“In order to maintain public confidence in the authority, the employment of Barry Bordelon should be terminated,” said board member Lynn Giordano.
Giordano asked the board to vote on a resolution that would have instructed the current executive director to terminate Bordelon’s employment.
Bordelon resigned in August after a scathing Office of Inspector General report questioned the use of $655,000 in Housing Authority funds. Later, Bordelon was hired back onto the Housing Authority as a maintenance foreman.
“It just smacks of impropriety and it needs to be corrected,” said Jefferson Parish President John Young, who said the parish attorney’s office has been investigating the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority since the federal report came out.
The meeting grew heated at times.
Giordano asked board vice chair Hunley Dufour whether he reads the newspaper when he asked her why she believes Bordelon should be fired.
Dufour responded, “Do you read the newspaper? Do you know how many times they have allegations out there?”
“This is the issue that's taken up 99 percent of this board's time over the past six months. Frankly, we need to move on and work on housing authority business,” said Patrick Pierson, board chairman.
Pierson and Dufour say the allegations against the Housing Authority have not yet been proven, and therefore, should not impact Bordelon’s employment. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving the Housing Authority until March 31 to produce documents supporting its questionable spending.
Pierson said he is confident the Housing Authority will be cleared of the allegations, and said the board plans to meet with HUD as soon as possible.
“Why would we fire a man who's doing his job? Just because somebody doesn't like it? We have no reason to fire this man,” said Pierson.
The board isn't just facing questions about its former executive director. It's also embroiled in controversy about the way its current executive director was hired last month.
Parish president John Young is calling for a state and local investigation into whether the board violated open meetings laws when it appointed Pamela Watson.
And at a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, the parish council set a February hearing on whether to remove three commission members in light of the inspector general's report.
“There is a lot of money that has been misappropriated and mismanaged and I think we need to clean some house,” said Young.
In the end, the move to fire Bordelon did not pass.
Three board members voted to fire him, another three voted not to fire him, and three members abstained from voting.