Morgan City Housing Authority director’s contract on agenda
MORGAN CITY, La. — The Morgan City Housing Authority Board of Commissioners is expected to discuss whether or not to issue Charles Spann another contract as executive director in a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the 336 Wren St. office.
Spann has been working under an expired contract since May 22. The board was expected to discuss Spann’s contract at its May 23 meeting but that meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.
The expired contract base salary of $85,000 was up from the $65,000 reported when he was hired in April 2007.
Since The Daily Review reported on May 13 that a legislative audit showed four office workers, including Spann, were paid more than $159,000 in bonuses, of which nearly $137,000 was distributed in excess of what was allowed, commission chairman Victory Ho has been talking with U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials, the state civil service commission, local officials in Morgan City government and others as the board tries to get to the bottom of what happened and how.
Ho has expressed his disappointment in what he said has been Spann’s lack of candor and truthfulness with him.
Spann said this morning that he has been “transparent in keeping the board apprised of what is going on.” He said his failure was in being involved in all departments and their activities.
On May 28, the housing authority renewed attempts at procuring an attorney through public legal advertisement. Ho said previous attempts to obtain an attorney were unsuccessful.
At a May 20 special meeting, the board received and discussed the audit prepared by the Morgan City firm of Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company. The audit also shows that 11 other housing employees received bonuses that amounted to $13,900. The bonuses range from $203 to $3,179 with five of the bonuses more than $2,000. The propriety of these bonuses is not questioned in the audit.
During the past 17 months the board of commissioners failed to hold over a third of its regular monthly meetings. The by-laws of the commission state that at least one regular public meeting will be held each month.
The canceled May 23 meeting was the sixth monthly meeting of the board that was canceled in that period. None of the meetings were rescheduled.
The meetings were not held either due to an inability to get a quorum or because the commissioners felt there was no significant business that needed to be conducted that month, according to Ho.
The April 2012 meeting was the only regular meeting that was attended by every commissioner in the previous 17 months. All five board members attended the May 20 special emergency meeting.
Each of the five commissioners, chosen from the community, volunteers their service without pay. They are mayoral appointments, appointed to four-year terms.
Finding volunteers to serve on city boards is often difficult; it has been an exceedingly difficult task to find volunteers for the housing authority board because of past troubles and misconduct, according to District 3 city councilman Ron Bias, who represents three of the four public housing facilities; Joe Ruffin Homes, Jacquet Homes and Brownell Homes
The other project, Shannon Homes, is represented by District 1 councilman Tim Hymel.
The housing authority also oversees public assistance housing through Section 8 vouchers in homes and residences throughout the city.
“We need people to volunteer to serve on all of these boards and commissions,” Bias said, as he expressed appreciation for those who have stepped up to serve.
Bias said that while former mayor Tim Matte appointed the commissioners now serving on the housing authority board, such appointments are often done after courtesy consultations with council members whose districts may be impacted. He said serving on the housing authority is an important assignment for those who volunteer.
Five months into his first term, Mayor Frank Grizzaffi indicated disappointment in reading about problems that have been reported regarding the housing authority, but points out that the mayor’s only role with the authority is to appoint commission members.
Grizzaffi said he needs to review the attendance record of commissioners and would address that issue once the current troubles at the housing authority have been settled.
“At the end of the day, the residents in those projects are citizens of Morgan City and I have great concern for their well-being,” Grizzaffi said. “If you raise your hand to volunteer and participate, I think you owe it to the residents to make sure you attend the meetings.”
Ho said he is working with fellow commissioners to “put the housing authority in the right direction.” Ho does not expect to see future monthly meetings canceled.