'We understand the issues ... the people': Lafayette Housing Authority could return to local control _lowres

aca LHA bt Advocate staff photo by Bryan Tuck. Photo shot on 3/29/11. The Housing Authority of the City of Lafayette's Office on Kattie Drive in Lafayette.

Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux has recommended returning the Lafayette Housing Authority to local control, a move that comes five years after federal officials took over the agency when an audit revealed widespread problems and sparked an investigation that put the executive director in federal prison.

Whether the Housing Authority soon will answer to a local board is up to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The federal agency is planning for a transition, but no timetable has been set, HUD spokeswoman Patricia Campbell said in an email Wednesday.

“I think we can best serve our housing concerns when we are operating under a local board rather than under the receivership of the federal government,” said City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who has long advocated trying to regain control of the authority that oversees low-income housing programs in Lafayette.

Robideaux, who took office in January, expressed an early interest in working with HUD to seat a local board.

City-parish government spokeswoman Cydra Wingerter said the first step is to identify who might serve on the local board, and Robideaux has chosen five community members for the task: businessman Mark Becnel, Catholic Services of Acadiana Executive Director Kim Boudreaux, former Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, retired Office of Public Health employee Monica Gibbs and Lafayette Parish school system reading tutor Polly Williams.

“Joel was ready to go ahead and take back authority and control locally,” Wingerter said. “Locally, we understand the issues, and we understand the people in need.”

HUD must accept Robideaux’s recommendations before the transition moves forward, Campbell said, and the potential board members must receive training.

HUD, which provides most of the funding for local public housing, took control of the Lafayette Housing Authority in 2011, dissolving the local board in the wake of a 2010 audit that found questionable expenses and contracts, shoddy record keeping and a long list of other problems.

The audit led to the resignations of Executive Director Walter O. Guillory and Deputy Director Jonathan Carmouche.

Guillory later was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to federal bribery and wire fraud charges for steering Housing Authority construction work to certain companies and asking vendors who did business with the authority to make annual donations to a baseball team he sponsored.