HANO uses nonprofit arm to skirt public bid laws _lowres

David Gilmore

The former finance director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans filed suit against the agency this week, alleging that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and eventually fired last year for speaking out against the contracting practices adopted by HANO’s director at the time.

In a suit filed Wednesday in federal court, Ronald McIntyre said he was “subjected to constant and repeated harassment, threats of termination, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, racial discrimination and retaliation.” He said his work environment became hostile after he complained that his boss, David Gilmore, was circumventing state and federal bid laws by steering contracts to friends and acquaintances.

McIntyre said Gilmore allowed the contractors to set their own rates, without scrutiny from HANO staff, and also used money that was earmarked for Section 8 public housing programs to pay contractors doing other programs.

“HANO/Mr. Gilmore interfered with the agency’s bid process, up to and including denying contracts to some minority firms and redirecting others to firms of Mr. Gilmore’s choosing,” the lawsuit says. “Additionally, Mr. Gilmore would counsel Mr. McIntyre and place him on bid panels whereby he was the only male on the panel, in an attempt to have Mr. McIntyre use his male status to influence the contract decisions Mr. Gilmore desired.”

McIntyre was one of a small group of people Gilmore brought with him to run HANO through his private consulting firm, Gilmore Kean. The company was contracted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to lead HANO from 2009 until this past April. Under the arrangement, Gilmore served as HANO’s executive director and one-man board of directors.

McIntyre said Gilmore used that position to pass along contracts to his friends, even though HANO’s Finance Department had “found clear and widespread evidence of fraudulent billings” by at least one of those vendors.

Several of McIntyre’s allegations were outlined in a story that appeared in The New Orleans Advocate last week. That story said Gilmore made a practice of authorizing thousands of dollars in professional-services contracts to companies, some with ties to his private consulting firm, through a little-known nonprofit subsidiary of the authority.

The subsidiary, Crescent Affordable Housing Corp., wrote checks and completed wire transfers totaling nearly $1 million to five companies between 2012 and 2013 without first soliciting bids for the work.

The nonprofit subsidiary also authorized a $1 million contract to a single firm, though it’s not clear how much of that has been paid out.

McIntyre said he was fired for allegedly harassing a female co-worker in December, just days after he told Gilmore that he “would be reporting the contract issues” to the HUD Inspector General’s Office.

He denied harassing the co-worker and said, instead, that he was himself the victim of sexual harassment that was reported to, but ignored by, Gilmore.

McIntyre also claims that Gilmore engaged in racial discrimination, urging McIntyre, for instance, to more closely scrutinize an African American-owned company that bid on HANO work than its white counterparts. McIntyre is black and Gilmore is white.

McIntyre, who says he suffered “extreme mental anguish and emotional distress,” is asking the court for back pay, $300,000 in punitive damages and his job back, among other things.

Gilmore said Thursday that he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and preferred not to comment until he has read it.

A spokeswoman for HANO said the agency “does not comment on any personnel issues or ongoing litigation.”

After spending 12 years in federal receivership, HANO returned to local control earlier this month.