The Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish is working on putting a tenants’ representative on the board and should have someone nominated within the next two months, the board’s chairwoman and its attorney said Wednesday.
Chairwoman Nancy Pearson addressed the Jefferson Parish Council following Councilman Mark Spears’ recent call for the dismissal of the authority’s executive director for refusing to seat the previous tenants’ representative at a recent meeting.
The debate centers on whether Marrero Tenants Organization representative Vina Boudion is still on the board or not.
Pearson, Executive Director Juan Patterson, attorney Joe Hassinger and a majority of board members say she is not, while Spears and at least one board member, Jim Lawson, say she is.
Pearson and Hassinger reiterated their case to the Parish Council on Wednesday, saying Boudion said she had quit and stopped coming to board meetings more than a year ago. They also noted she attended a meeting in the meantime and spoke as a member of the public and did not take a seat at the board table.
They said that in the meantime, Patterson has been working with tenants at the authority’s Marrero apartments to get their organization back up and running as a functional entity and to put forward a person to represent them.
Boudion, however, came to the authority’s meeting last month and asked to be recognized as a member of the board. She and her backers noted she never submitted a resignation in writing.
Spears said the refusal to recognize Boudion as the tenants’ representative struck him as evidence that the Housing Authority views that position as simply ceremonial and does not give it the respect it deserves.
He said the tenants marched in protest to gain representation on the authority’s board in the 1980s.
“This isn’t something that’s ceremonious,” he said. “It has a point.”
Spears said that according to state law, Boudion remains a board member until she is replaced.
“We can agree to disagree on that,” Hassinger said.
Pearson and Hassinger said Patterson has been working on reconstituting the tenants’ organization for months — in some cases going door to door to get participation — and that it hasn’t been registered with the state as a legal entity in years.
Spears wanted to know why the board didn’t postpone its selection of officers until the tenants are represented. Hassinger said the board chairman needs to sign checks and perform other duties essential to the authority’s operations and the position can’t afford to go unfilled for months.
Hassinger said he expects nominees for the tenants’ seat to be put forward in the next 60 days.
Pearson told the council that the Housing Authority’s director was chosen by the board and reports to it. She said if council members have an issue with Patterson, they should come to the board. She said the board welcomes any questions or investigations as it tries to recover from years of scandal and get its books straight.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.