JEFFERSON, La. -- Five Jefferson Parish Housing Authority board members ousted last week have sued parish President John Young and the parish council in federal court, claiming they were defamed and fired from the board without cause.
The five ousted board members who filed suit today in U.S. District Court in New Orleans are former Chairman Patrick Pierson, William Boada, Hunley Dufour, Simone Scanio and Mary Snowden.
They claim Young unfairly removed them from the board because of the results of a federal audit, which found extensive mismanagement and questioned $650,000 in expenses the authority ran up during former Executive Director Barry Bordelon’s tenure.
The former commissioners complain that several of them only served during part of the audit period and that they have until March to rectify the problems identified in the audit.
But the real impetus for their ouster was the fact that they rehired Bordelon to be the authority’s maintenance supervisor in September. Young instructed the board to fire Bordelon, but the ousted members either voted to keep him as maintenance supervisor or abstained from voting, preventing the board from taking any action.
Young said the six board members (the five who filed suit plus one more) who did not vote to fire Bordelon were derelict in their duties and ordered them off the board. The board members argued that Bordelon earned the maintenance position through an open civil service process and they did not have the authority or cause to fire him.
Young also said that Bordelon needed to work until February or March to collect full retirement benefits.
“The inspector general recommended that HUD direct the parish president to evaluate the effectiveness of the board and remove and replace commissioners as appropriate. I have been doing just that since August of this year,” Young said.
“After serious consideration and deliberation, I took steps to terminate several commissioners. I took this action after meeting with HUD officials to discuss the future of the Housing Authority and based on the totality of the circumstances and issues involved.”
Young and Councilman-at-Large Chris Roberts said the real issue is that there was serious mismanagement and abuse in the authority and the council and parish president have the right to remove board members. The board members contend in their lawsuit that the elected officials incorrectly treat the board as patronage positions and need to have due cause to remove them or request the firing of Bordelon.
“When they rehired Bordelon they made a mockery of the whole HUD audit,” Roberts said.
The lawsuit also traces the history of Roberts’ position on public housing to allege that he is a racist who is against public housing. Roberts said his resolutions dealing with Section 8 vouchers were approved by HUD and said the plaintiffs were just trying to distract from the real issue: the troubling audit findings.
“I am not surprised they have attempted to paint this out as a racial issue. The HUD IG’s report speaks for itself,” Roberts said.