JP Finance Authority board re-opens director search to battle cronyism concerns

JEFFERSON PARISH -- Qualified candidates will get another shot at a six-figure job heading up the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority, a little-known public trust, after concerns about the appearance of cronyism led its board of directors to re-open the search for a new executive director.

A majority of the board on Monday publicly expressed the desire to hire Wanda Theriot to run the agency, but instead of voting to offer her the job at a special meeting Wednesday, the board unanimously voted to re-open the job posting.

Wanda Theriot is the daughter of Steve Theriot, the former interim Jefferson Parish president and a former state lawmaker. Wanda Theriot, a tax attorney, has worked with the JPFA before as a representative of Coastal Securities, a banking and securities firm.

JPFA Trustee Frank Muscarello has made motions on three occasions to offer Wanda Theriot the job, with Muscarello’s first push coming before the board interviewed any of the applicants.

When three of the trustees pushed back, the board interviewed two of the top candidates for the position. A third declined to be interviewed, saying he felt the process was a sham.

Former JPFA Executive Director Terry McCarthy officially retired last Friday, and while McCarthy did not appear in person at Monday's regularly-scheduled board meeting, chairman Greg Faia read a letter McCarthy wrote into the record.

"Eight years ago I was recruited and hired to be the first executive director of the JPFA. We had a common goal and during that time we were successful in helping over 1,000 families purchase a home in Jefferson Parish," the letter reads.

The board's administrative committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to decide whether to recommend hiring a professional headhunter to help find McCarthy's replacement.

While the finance authority is separate from Jefferson Parish, the trustees that oversee it are appointed by parish council members and the parish president. 

"The jefferson finance authority is an independent and autonomous board or commission. The administration respects that independence and will not interfere with their function or task of appointing a new director. The actions taken today by the board of re-advertising and opening the search back up is positive and demonstrates that the board is taking this appointment very seriously and vetting candidates thoroughly. No harm can come from increasing the pool of qualified candidates in which to choose from," said Keith Conley, Chief Administrative Officer of Jefferson Parish.

The JPFA provides down payment assistance to would-be homebuyers in the form "grants" worth three to four percent of the home’s value that do not have to be repaid. However, home buyers who use the program pay an above-market interest rate for the life of their mortgages in exchange for the upfront cash.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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