Housing director fired after no-show at hearing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS, Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – Alice Crenshaw won’t be coming back to the helm of the St. John Parish Housing Authority. Suspended last week, amid questions regarding the purchase of a disability insurance policy, the executive director was officially fired at a special hearing on August 30.

Crenshaw was absent from the termination hearing.

As this meeting was called to order at 5:05 p.m., board member Raydel Morris noticed that Crenshaw was not in the audience. “I don’t see our executive director in our presence,” he told the audience. “Is anyone here representing her?”

He received no response and made a motion to wait five minutes to allow the executive director the benefit of the doubt to arrive at the hearing. All board members agreed.

By 5:15, Crenshaw still had not arrived, and the board meeting resumed.

“Ms. Crenshaw was notified about this meeting, and I didn’t hear any response from either her or her attorney to postpone, so we will proceed,” said Morris.

He then made a motion to terminate Crenshaw from her position as the Housing Authority Executive Director, and also asked the board to seek legal advice to see how they can recover the funds that are in question. The motion was seconded by Forell Bering and approved by all board members.

In addition, the board named the Housing Authority’s finance director, Claudette Raphael, as interim executive director for the next 40 days, until the board finds a replacement.

Additional compensation will be given to Raphael, since her work load will increase to accommodate both jobs. The board will meet with her to discuss the numbers, since no concrete amount has been discussed yet.

And extra manpower may also be on the horizon. “We plan on giving Ms. Raphael additional help,” said Morris. “I understand there are a lot of pressing matters, such as the end-of-the-month budget approval.”

Board member Forell Bering told the audience that the board will, “continue to clean this place up, and further comments will be given to the public.”

Morris noted that HUD will randomly inspect the 316 units that the Housing Authority is responsible for sometime this week. “This inspection will tell us exactly what steps need to be taken to get this agency back on line,” he said.

When questioned after the meeting, regarding the level of difficulty the board experienced when making the decision to terminate Crenshaw, board member Priscilla James said the situation was pretty well spelled out before the meeting began.

The crux of the situation was whether or not Crenshaw purchased a disability insurance policy for herself, which was to be paid for with funds given to her each month for a period of 21 months.

Approximately $5,000 total was given to Crenshaw. She had until Monday’s hearing to bring forth paperwork that would prove the monies were indeed used for their intended purpose.

Reserve resident Ervin Fleming attending Monday’s hearing in support of Crenshaw. His church, The New Home Ministry in LaPlace, had worked closely with her on different projects. Fleming said she is an upstanding lady, who worked very well in the community. “This is a sad day,” he said.