Some on Housing Board displeased with Wolfe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2011



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority Executive Director Richard “Dale” Wolfe’s job could be in jeopardy after an appearance before the St. John Parish Council during which he attempted to “clear his name” while accusing a pair of Housing Board commissioners of interfering with agency operations.

Wolfe, who resigned from the council in October to take over the struggling Housing Authority, was placed on the council agenda Tuesday to provide an update of the agency’s progress in the wake of a scathing audit by the state Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Instead, he used the time to address a pair of letters from Housing Commissioner Iona Holloway accusing Wolfe of various improper actions as executive director. Wolfe contends that some commissioners are preventing him from completing business to get the agency back on track.

“I’ve been given a job, but I haven’t been given the tools to do the job,” Wolfe said. “There are board members on this commission that interfere with the day-to-day operations of this agency.”

In the first letter, which was dated April 8, Wolfe was reprimanded for canceling a special meeting of the Housing Authority at which authority finances and Wolfe’s evaluation were to be covered. Holloway said in the letter Wolfe lied to board members saying all agreed to cancel the meeting, but this was not the case. Holloway said she and fellow commissioner Art Smith did not agree to cancel the meeting and added other commissioners agreed to the cancellation only after receiving false information.

Holloway also said in the letter Wolfe still posted a cancellation notice even after she had informed him that the commission intended to proceed with the meeting. The meeting ended up being cancelled for lack of a quorum.

“You willfully, deceptively and intentionally orchestrated the cancellation of this important meeting by exceeding your contractual authority and by using and communicating false information,” Holloway wrote. “Your actions clearly violate your employment contract, specifically, ‘failure to perform assigned duties and personal dishonesty.’”

Holloway said in the letter it was the second time Wolfe interfered with an attempt to schedule his evaluation because it was not included on the February board meeting agenda as requested by commissioners.

The second letter, which was dated April 10 and sent to the Parish Council and District Attorney Tom Daley, expressed concern over Wolfe’s appearance at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Holloway stated in the letter that since the council no longer held appointment authority over the board, any request for an appearance or report on the agency needed to come from Parish President Natalie Robottom. Holloway said commissioners received no such request from Robottom.

Holloway said in the letter Wolfe has failed to provide accurate records and data to the board, including a balanced budget for the agency.

“In view of the fact that you, as an employee of this agency, have not been given board approval to make a public report to any official entity concerning any aspect of the St. John Housing Authority, you are directed to table any official appearance,” Holloway said in the letter. “Any action by you that is not in compliance with this directive will be classified as insubordination.”

During his appearance at the council Tuesday, Wolfe said interference by the board has prevented him from making improvements at the agency. Wolfe referred to a hiring freeze that has left the agency understaffed and prevented him from compiling a balanced budget to be sent to HUD for approval. He said Holloway and Smith are “out to destroy him.”

Wolfe did, however, praise the other board members, Deshonda Firmin, Melissa Faucheux and Clarence Narcisse, for “being willing to work with him.”

Holloway, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting, was not allowed to speak her side. Council Vice Chairwoman Cheryl Millet, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Chairman Ronnie Smith, told Holloway she could not speak because she was not on the agenda as Wolfe was.

Outside the council chambers, Holloway told reporters Wolfe has failed to present a single executive director’s report or financial report to the board. She said he has also not taken action on any of the deficiencies detailed in the audit conducted by HUD that was presented to the board in January.

Holloway said the Housing Authority owes the parish $170,000 for water, and rent collection has fallen to 60 percent in the last three months, which is far below the HUD requirement of 95 percent. She also said Wolfe has failed to collect $160,000 in portability charges owed to the parish from other agencies that provide assistance for Section 8 tenants that have moved to St. John Parish.

Wolfe said after the meeting that the water problem has been a recurring issue at the agency and is trying to be worked out. He added that his current maintenance staff is working to make repairs to 39 housing units so that they can be occupied.

Wolfe also said after the meeting he may be seeking another run at his old council seat in the fall elections. When asked by a reporter if voters may see him again in October, Wolfe said, “You probably will.”

The Housing Authority’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. at the LaPlace Development Community Center, 152 Joe Parquet Circle, LaPlace.