LAFAYETTE — A contempt of court hearing for City-Parish President Joey Durel that had been set for Monday has been postponed while he asks the state Supreme Court to halt the case.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin had set the hearing at the request of three former Lafayette Housing Authority board members, who argue Durel improperly removed them from the board a second time after Rubin had reinstated them.
City-parish attorneys have been fighting to keep the contempt hearing from happening.
The state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in April declined to halt the proceedings, ruling that an appeal was not proper until the judge actually makes a decision on the contempt issue. City-parish attorneys asked the state Supreme Court to step in.
The contempt case against Durel is related to an ongoing controversy at LHA, which oversees the city’s low-income housing programs.
An audit last year found widespread problems in management and spending at the agency, and the director and assistant director resigned shortly after the audit was made public.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took over management of LHA in March, putting in place federal officials to oversee the agency and disbanding the local board of commissioners.
The contempt issue emerged from a lawsuit filed last year by board members Joe Dennis, Leon Simmons and John Freeman, who had vigorously fought their ouster before the HUD takeover.
Durel had dismissed Dennis, Simmons, Freeman and two other board members after the critical audit was released, saying at the time that the board should have been doing a better job with oversight.
Only Dennis, Simmons and Freeman challenged their removal, arguing that they were voluntary board members who exercised only limited control of the day-to-day operations of the housing authority.
Rubin reinstated the men, ruling that Durel did not give a legally valid reason for the first removal.
Durel responded with a second dismissal, using more specific language.
City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert has argued the second dismissal should not be considered a violation of Rubin’s earlier reinstatement of the LHA board members because Durel cited new reasons.
Durel could face fines and jail time if found to be in contempt.