Lafayette Housing Authority (LHA) Executive Director Jon Wells has been dismissed from his position as of Wednesday morning, February 19th, 2014. He has served in that capacity part-time for 33 years and full-time for the past 8 months.
A team from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Memphis Hub Office, was assigned to investigate Lafayette Housing Authority governance and management issues communicated to HUD by its Board and local constituents and to perform training. That visit was conducted on September 23-25, 2013.
In a public document obtained by The Macon County Chronicle, which was sent to the Lafayette Housing Authority Board Chairman and the City of Lafayette, Marcia Lewis, who is the Director of the Memphis Hub of the Office of Public Housing, detailed findings of that visit. She said:
“The team confirmed that Mr. Wells used LHA maintenance staff to move three loads of his own personal property from the law office to a room at LHA which he converted to his new office. Mr. Wells is still carrying on a limited practice of law, including work as City Attorney for Lafayette and Red Boiling Springs. He instructed Assistant Leasing and Occupancy Manager Crystal Carver to write receipts for legal fees brought to the front window by his clients out of a ledger that he produced from his office; and Ms. Carver has complied. Ms. Carver had previously turned someone away that had tried to pay an outside legal fee at the front window of LHA and was verbally reprimanded. Ms. Carver also reported that she has been required to type up leases and deeds and other legal documents for Mr. Wells’ legal practice that have nothing to do with her assigned responsibilities at LHA. Both Ms. Carver and Leasing and Occupancy Manager Lisa Gentry have been threatened by Mr. Wells with being fired for divulging any information regarding their hostile treatment or extra duties assigned outside of LHA business. The office staff says that Mr. Wells is often verbally abusive; and, on at least one occasion, called Ms. Carver a “Moron.” The (HUD) team observed the work environment to be tense and hostile.”
Ms. Lewis further commented:
“It appears that Mr. Wells has no work requiring his immediate attention. Staff informed the team that Mr. Wells worries about angry tenants getting hostile, so he has brought a hand gun to work which he keeps in his office and has said that he would shoot someone in the leg if necessary. The office employees are fearful about this gun being in the office and based on their past experience do not feel threatened by hostile angry tenants. On an infrequent basis, Mr. Wells walks the grounds writing tenants up for items on their front porch that “he says” are a violation of policy. It should be noted that no such policy could be provided to the HUD team.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development also stated in its letter that HUD plans “to do a full management review as soon as funding is approved
Wells dismissal was confirmed by two current board members and when asked if Mr. Wells was present on the 19th or if he would be back in the office, workers at the LHA stated “no” and that Wells would not be back.