A pair of bills at the state Legislature — one of them backed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu — could reshape the board that governs public housing in New Orleans, which has been struggling to gather enough members even to hold regular meetings.

A measure sponsored by Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, at the request of Landrieu, would release the mayor from the requirement that he fill two seats on the Housing Authority of New Orleans’ board with public housing residents nominated by the Citywide Tenants Association.

The other bill, proposed by Rep. Nick Lorusso, R-New Orleans, would increase the panel’s membership from seven to nine, adding two landlord representatives. The Mayor’s Office said Landrieu isn’t backing that measure, at least in its existing form.

Crowe said his bill is aimed at ending a legal battle between the administration and the Tenants Association that has left the HANO board short two members and unable to consistently hold meetings.

The association represents residents of public housing and those who use vouchers issued by HANO to live in privately owned rental properties.

At issue is whether the association’s nominees would have conflicts of interest if they served on the board. Landrieu, citing a state Ethics Board opinion, argues that they would.

The nominees, Constance Haynes and Donna Johnigan, each are perceived to have a financial connection to the housing authority.

Haynes manages a community center that received a federal grant as part of the redevelopment of the Fischer housing complex in Algiers. She receives about $39,000 a year from the grant, which is administered through HANO.

Johnigan does not have any personal or business relationships with HANO, but she is employed by a firm that administers a social services program for the B.W. Cooper Resident Management Corp. Johnigan is on the board of that management group.

Both dispute that their jobs amount to a conflict of interest.

The Tenants Association has sued the city in court to force it to seat its nominees. The dispute is before Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese, who has yet to rule.

A spokesman for Landrieu said Crowe’s bill is a way to “move this process forward.”

The measure still calls for the mayor to appoint at least two tenants of the housing authority to the board, but they would no longer have to come from a list of names submitted by the Tenants Association.

Association President Cynthia Wiggins said giving the mayor the power to place whomever he wants on the board “raises some concern” for the organization.

“People have consistently said in this city that our elected officials have too much authority and have a tendency to abuse it,” Wiggins said. “We can’t understand the position of the mayor and his desire not to want the Citywide Tenants Association to make those recommendations to his office.”

She said the issue should be decided in court.

Crowe said his bill is not intended to circumvent the court system.

“Anybody can go anywhere for litigation anytime. That’s this country we live in,” Crowe said. “The intent here is to stay within the confines of the ethics rules. ... What we’re saying and what we’re doing here is simply trying to move the process forward with legislation so that the city may proceed with appointing a full board.”

Several HANO board meetings have had to be canceled because of the lack of a quorum, including the most recently scheduled meeting on April 7, which had been rescheduled from March 31.

Lorusso’s bill would add two people who own property in New Orleans and provide housing through HANO’s Housing Choice Voucher Program to the board.

The two landlord commissioners would serve five-year terms and would not be appointed by the mayor, nor would the mayor have the power to remove them. Instead, they would be appointed by other property owners who participate in the voucher program.

Lorusso’s proposal would also exempt the landlord commissioners from ethics rules with respect to their service on the board.

That means they could violate the rule prohibiting anyone with a financial interest in HANO from serving on the agency’s board — the very rule the two Tenants Association members are accused of violating.

A spokesman for Landrieu said the administration does not support the Lorusso bill “in its current form,” but he did not go into specifics. The spokesman said the administration is talking with Lorusso about the measure.

Lorusso did not return calls seeking comment. Wiggins said the Tenants Association objects to the bill.

Monika Gerhart, a policy analyst for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Network, said she applauds the attempts at reforming HANO’s board but does not believe either measure addresses the board’s real problems.

She said the bills don’t make a point of ensuring that the more than 18,000 families who hold HANO vouchers in addition to public housing residents are fully represented.

“Both (bills) are great starting points and great efforts,” Gerhart said. “But we need to sit down with all the stakeholders and do it all at once.”