HUD says firing Bell is up to authority’s board

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – If the director of the Ferriday Housing Authority is fired or is placed on leave pending a review of a state auditor’s report of the agency, the authority’s board would be the one to do it, a HUD official said Tuesday.

Sammy Davis Jr., chairman of the authority’s Board of Commissioners, said Monday the board was waiting to find out from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development who had the authority to take such action – HUD or the board.

But &uot;under Louisiana law and the policies of the Housing Authority, hiring and firing is done by the Board of Commissioners&uot; of the authority, Marvel Robertson, public affairs director for HUD’s New Orleans regional office, said Tuesday.

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Davis said Monday if Executive Director Charles Bell is fired, that would be done only after criminal charges are brought against Bell. Davis could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Bell has not returned calls to the Housing Authority’s Office.

The report alleged that Bell misappropriated $218,169 in public funds over almost four years.

Both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office are reviewing the auditor’s report but have not yet decided which criminal charges – if any – they will file against Bell.

&uot;We’re still looking at that, and I’d say it will be at least one month or more before we could complete that review,&uot;&160;Bill Flanagan, assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, said Tuesday.

Flanagan would not comment on what charges could possibly be brought against Bell on the federal level.

But the report, which Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle’s office released June 18, stated that charges could include embezzlement, theft or bribery concerning program receiving federal funds, theft, forgery, malfeasance in office and money laundering.

Meanwhile, HUD’s New Orleans office is reviewing the auditor’s report as well, Robertson said.

Based on the findings of that review, could place restrictions on Bell’s use of federal funds or could take over the authority’s operations.

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.