St. John Parish public housing again without a chief

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 17, 2000

LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority does not havean executive director for the second time in a year.

Executive Director Thomas Gholson handed in his resignation Wednesday at a meeting of the St. John Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.The resignation comes in the wake of a series of newspaper articles that alleges Gholson misused housing authority credit cards and then altered the records to cover up the fact.

Eulah Young, president of the board of commissioners, said the board did not ask for Gholson’s resignation.

“He decided himself to resign,” Young said. “He thought it would be unfairto us if he stayed on.”Several months ago allegations of credit card misuse were leveled against Gholson and the former president of the board, Sheila Morris. Morris, whowas instrumental in getting the board to hire Gholson as executive director, also resigned due to the credit card scandal.

Gholson told the board he will stay on until the end of the month.

Young said Earl White, a former housing authority executive with St.

James Parish, will serve as interim director until the board finds a replacement.

This is White’s second time as interim director. He performed the samejob back in September 1999 when Patrena Ester was fired as executive director for malfeasance in office.

Gholson, who has been executive director since February 2000, was well- liked by the tenants of all the housing developments in St. John Parish. Hisresignation caused a large outcry of dismay at Wednesday’s meeting.

“The tenants did not take it well,” said Young.

Young and other members of the board thought Gholson was doing a good job.

“I thought he was doing an excellent job,” said Young, “However, he made a mistake.”Young said Gholson was making a difference in all the housing authorities.

“He found ways to house people.” said Young. “He never evicted anybody.There was one lady at the meeting who was upset because Mr. Gholson hadhelped to pay her electric bill. That’s just the way he is. He is a peopleperson.”Gholson was not available for comment.

Before the firing of Ester, the St. John Parish Housing Authority had beenunder fire from the Housing and Urban Development office in New Orleans for not maintaining clean and safe housing for the tenants of the four housing developments in the parish. Starting in June 1999, tenants had complainedof deteriorating housing units and an apathetic and uncaring management.

HUD came in and did an audit and found a lot to complain about, but it didn’t think that Ester needed to be fired.

However, the parish council fired Ester and the Board of Commissioners under protest from HUD.

After a new board was installed, then-board president Morris presented Gholson as a nominee for executive director. Gholson came highly-regardedand with lots of references, as he had worked at housing authorities all over the country. HUD had appointed him to come in and rescue the flounderingHousing Authority of New Orleans several years ago. Gholson was hired bythe board of commissioners in December 1999.

The resignation of Gholson is not the end of the troubles for either the St.

John Housing Authority or Gholson. Marvel Robinson, spokesperson for theNew Orleans office of HUD, said HUD is “continuing its review of the administration and operations of the St. John Parish Housing Authority.”She also said, “The inspector general’s office of HUD is continuing its investigation into monetary matters at St. John Parish Housing Authority.”

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