Following dismissal by the Lafayette Housing Authority, Wells steps down

Last updated: February 27. 2014 3:42PM - 2796 Views
By Tilly Dillehay, Editor tcryar@civitasmedia.com

Lafayette City Hall, located at 200 E. Locust Street
Lafayette City Hall, located at 200 E. Locust Street
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Story Updated 2/28/14.
Alisha Hodge, of the State Comptroller's Office, made the following statement on the legality of the February 19 special called meeting of the LHA, during which Wells was dismissed:

"I can’t say they violated the open meetings act in the meeting they had on the 19th, because I wasn’t there, but I feel that they need to re-advertise this meeting, that the notice needs to be specific as to what the issues are that they’re going to discuss. I have advised them that this is what they should do. And I believe that a new notice is coming out today [Friday], advertising another meeting which will be held to discuss and vote again on those same issues."

Longtime local attorney Jon Wells resigned from his position as Lafayette City Attorney Thursday, after being dismissed from his position as the Lafayette Housing Authority (LHA) Executive Director, according to City Mayor Richard Driver.

Wells had retired in 2013 from his private practice. Having served as part time Director of LHA for over thirty years, he was hired as full time Director at the time that his private practice was closed. After this move, Wells continued to serve the cities of Lafayette and Red Boiling Springs as legal advisor.

Wells was dismissed from LHA last week, after a report was sent to Lafayette City officials and LHA board members, which detailed allegations of incompetence and misuse of company resources made against Wells by two LHA employees. The report was completed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with offices in Memphis, TN.

Two board members—Helen Gann and Steve Morris—resigned from LHA months before Wells was dismissed; the remaining board members are Ruby Flowers Crenshaw, Rick Gann, and Charlie Jones.

Wells contends that this special called meeting wasn't legal, as it was not publically advertised. He says that this means he was still Executive Director on Thursday, February 27, when he handed a resignation letter to board member Ruby Flowers Crenshaw.

Crenshaw says that unfortunately, HUD has maintained that the meeting was legal. “It didn't have to be [advertised],” she said, “because it was his character that was being discussed.” But, she added, she can understand why Wells wants to be given the chance to retire rather than be dismissed, “and we're going to do whatever we can legally do to uphold Jon as best we can.”

An LHA Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 4. During this meeting, the letter of resignation from Wells will be considered, and personnel issues in general will be discussed. This meeting, which will be held at the Lafayette Housing Authority office at 6:00 pm, is open to the public.

During this month's Lafayette City Council meeting, which will be held the same night, March 4, at 7:00 pm, City Mayor Richard Driver plans to read Wells' letter of resignation and to announce a successor for Wells. City code mandates that the mayor appoint the city attorney, and the city council approve that appointment.

Wells was dismissed from service by the Red Boiling Springs City Council on Monday, February 24.

“I practiced 48 years and I never ran into anybody so vindictive,” Wells said, responding to the allegations. “I was shocked when I read it… I should have packed up and gone home when I closed my office. That's what I should have done. I think it's time for me to retire. I just hate that it had to be like this.”

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