Town sticks with decision on Bell’s pay

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 24, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – Ferriday housing commissioners voted Thursday to keep the authority’s director on leave without pay until the board has a chance to consult with an attorney.

A legislative auditor’s report released in June stated that Director Charles Bell allegedly misspent $218,169 in public funds.

The New Orleans office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in late July banned Bell from taking part in HUD’s public housing programs for one year – an action known as a &uot;limited denial of participation,&uot; or LDP.

Email newsletter signup

On Aug. 1, the authority’s Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to place Bell on administrative leave with pay following allegations that he misspent $218,169 in public funds.

But in a letter to board Vice Chairman Sammy Davis Jr., Chet Drozdowski, director of public housing for HUD’s New Orleans office, said that decision violates federal guidelines.

In a letter sent Aug. 16 to Davis, HUD officials said they could not direct the board to hire or fire Bell, place him on leave, or &uot;take any personnel action based on the LDP.&uot;

However, failure to take action with regards to Bell’s job status &uot;will be taken into consideration when funding decisions are made&uot; by HUD for the fiscal year that starts in October, the letter added.

The authority gets much of its operating money from HUD, although exact funding figures were unavailable as of Thursday evening. &uot;None of us want to place this facility at risk,&uot; said commissioner Clarence Hymon.

Bell is expected to appeal HUD’s decision regarding Bell’s participation with the authority.

In the letter, HUD officials also advised the board to hire an attorney to advise it in such matters. The board directed the authority’s acting director, authority secretary Netrina England, to find an attorney to advise the board.

&uot;We’re going to have to do something. … We need an attorney,&uot; said commissioner Marguerite Hayes.