Committee formed to find new housing chief

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 23, 2011



LAPLACE – A seven-person committee of St. John the Baptist Parish community members has been selected to sort through 23 applications submitted for the position of executive director of the parish Housing Authority.

Board Chairwoman Iona Holloway announced formation of the committee at the board’s last meeting. She said the committee will be asked to examine all applications and choose the top three for consideration by housing board members.

The committee is expected to have its selections in time for the housing board’s next meeting Sept. 19. Housing board members have not gone through the applications, and all applicants are being kept anonymous.

Members of the selection committee include Perry DiCarlo, principal of Riverside Academy in Reserve; St. John Parish Deputy Assessor Bruno Burrell; retired public school educator Jaqueline Forest; west bank businessman Gala Holden; parish school district employee Jo Maxent of LaPlace; LaPlace resident Jennifer Frizell; and the Rev. Sidney Tobias.

Holloway said the housing board set minimum requirements for the job, which include a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business administration, finance, business management or a related field from an accredited college of university. She said applicants will also be required to either have a public housing manager certification or work to obtain certification within a year of being hired. The board is also asking for at least five years of progressive executive-level experience in public housing and government-subsidized housing.

The new executive director will manage a public housing system that includes 300 low-rent housing units in LaPlace, Reserve, Garyville and Edgard in addition to 390 units of Section 8 housing. The new leader will be taking the helm of an agency that has been deemed troubled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which recently conducted an audit of the agency that uncovered numerous shortcomings pertaining to spending, rent collection and general maintenance. Chief among the deficiencies is the unaccounted for spending of more than $1 million in federal funds.

The Housing Authority has operated without an executive director since May when the board terminated the contract of Richard “Dale” Wolfe for “numerous contract and policy violations.” Wolfe was appointed director in October.

Housing Authority Administrative Coordinator Cindy Johnson was recently officially named interim executive director until a permanent replacement is named. The agency has also gotten assistance from the Kenner Housing Authority and its executive director, Claudette Rapheal.

Johnson said in recent months the Housing Authority has made strides to get back on track, including payment on several bills and an increase in rent collection. The agency is also ready to open bids on the demolition of six apartments that were damaged by fire several years ago and working on requests for proposals for grass cutting and general maintenance.