NEW ORLEANS -- There were some heated moments Friday as the Jefferson Parish Council listened to testimony about the ouster of 5 parish housing authority commissioners for alleged neglect of duty. They refused to step down.
Council members sat as a jury of sorts as attorneys for the commissioners made the case for why they should not have been terminated by parish President John Young.
Young fired them last year after a scathing audit by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General.
JP Housing Authority attorney Robert Garrity suggested race may have played a role in the decision on who to terminate and who to leave on 9 member board.
"Mr. Liberto's white and Ms. Snowden is black," Garrity said while questioning Young. "You can cut the facts anyway you want."
He was quickly admonished by Councilman At-Large Chris Roberts.
"Mr. Garrity, we're going to remain in a decorum here and if you choose to interject again on an inappropriate comment, we'll ask that you be removed," said Roberts.
"Please accept my apologies sir," Garrity responded.
HUD found widespread problems with the authority's spending practices, contract irregularities and a failure to explain about $700,000 in expenditures.
Young testified he terminated board members in part because they reassigned the man at the center of the investigation, former JPHA Executive Director Barry Bordelon as a maintenance supervisor rather than firing him as instructed.
"Was the fact that they failed to to terminate Mr. Bordelon a factor, absolutely," said Young. But, you have an OIG report that is scathing with details of improper and misappropriation of funds. In my opinion, this board did not have proper oversight and proper controls to make sure that money was spent properly for the purpose for which it's designed."
Garrity called the whole process a political hatchet job.
"They have done nothing than their jobs," said Garrity. "We have looked at these cases around the country. This housing authority is in probably in the top ten in the nation. There's no mismanagement going on."
Garrity said a lawsuit filed by the ousted commissioners is expected to be taken up in federal court next Wednesday. He believes that's where the issues will ultimately be decided.
The parish council is now expected to reconvene the housing authority hearing on Tuesday, at which time some of the housing commissioners are expected to testify.