Bell still housing director

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – It has been almost one month since a legislative auditor’s report alleged that Ferriday Housing Authority Director Charles Bell misappropriated $218,169 in public funds over almost four years.

But Bell, who could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon, is still serving as the agency’s director and has not been placed on administrative leave.

That is because the authority’s Board of Commissioners is still waiting for direction from the New Orleans regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Specifically, the board wants to find out who has the authority to fire Bell or place him on temporary leave – the authority’s board or HUD, which oversees public housing authorities, acting board Chairman Sammy Davis Jr. said Monday.

&uot;We’ve got to wait to hear from them until we do anything,&uot;&160;Davis said. Davis also said he hopes to receive that information before the board’s next meeting, which is set for Aug. 8.

Chet Drozdowski, director of public housing for HUD’s New Orleans office would not comment on the auditor’s report as of Monday.

Instead, he referred questions to the agency’s Public Affairs Office, which could release a statement on its review of the auditor’s report as early as today, said Marvel Robertson, a spokesperson for the New Orleans office.

Meanwhile, both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office were reviewing the auditor’s report as of Monday but had not yet decided which criminal charges – if any – they would file against Bell.

The auditor’s report stated that charges could include embezzlement, theft or bribery concerning program receiving federal funds, theft, forgery, malfeasance in office and money laundering.

The report, which was released June 18 by Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle’s office, alleges that from 1996 through 2000, Bell:

4Used $52,843 of public funds to pay for personal expenses.

4Converted $28,439 of public funds to money orders and cashier’s checks for his own personal use.

4Used $6,427 to buy a stereo and entertainment system.

4Along with authority employee Katina Washington, failed to deposit $4,400 of public funds.

4Authorized the payment of $4,100 to individuals for work that may not have been performed or should have been performed during regular work hours.

4Paid two people a total of $6,528 for maintenance work – but deposited $5,000 of that amount into the account of the nonprofit Concordia Housing Development Organization instead of paying the money to those individuals.

4Submitted false billings to the authority amounting to $42,962.

4Paid himself $54,463 from the nonprofit to which he was not entitled. Bell stated that while employed by the authority, he never received a salary from any other employer or organization.

4Donated $18,007 in public funds to various entities in violation of Article 7, Section 14 of the Louisiana Constitution.

Bell denied most of the allegations in a written response that was released as part of the auditor’s report but said he was not allowed enough time to respond to the charges in full.