Housing authority issue needs attention

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

So who, if anyone, will make a move? With the director of the Ferriday Housing Authority’s under fire from a state auditor’s report, both the local administrative board and HUD officials are deferring personnel responsibility to the other agency.

And no one seems to be addressing the issue of the director’s employment.

A state auditor’s report released last month alleges the authority’s director, Charles Bell, misappropriated more than $218,000 in public funds over the course of four years. No criminal charges have been filed, although both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Seventh Judicial District Attorney are reviewing the case.

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Meanwhile, Bell continues to act as executive director of the agency. Sammy Davis Jr., chairman of the authority’s board of directors, said earlier this week he was awaiting direction from the regional HUD office – direction on which agency has the authority to suspend or fire Bell. Furthermore, he said, Bell would be fired by the local board only if criminal charges were filed against the director. On Tuesday, a HUD official said that authority lies solely with the local governing board.

The next move lies with the local governing board, which must be accountable to the people who are served by the housing authority. If the director’s integrity in office has been questioned by an auditor’s report, the board members have the responsibility of addressing that issue, and providing answers to both the public and the residents served by the authority.

Simply waiting for direction from a state agency isn’t enough. This issue demands attentive and accountable leadership from the local board, leadership that includes providing answers and a sense of direction for the agency.