- Associated Press - Saturday, August 19, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A suburban New Orleans mayor has gutted the Kenner Housing Authority’s five-member board and called for the resignation of the agency’s executive director.

Mayor Ben Zahn called for an investigation after one of the agency’s board members, Connie Montgomery, resigned. She sent Zahn a letter dated July 5 claiming actions taken by Executive Director Marc Starling, Board Chairwoman Faye Mathews, and Board Attorney Don Richard had violated the Housing Authority’s procurement policy, Louisiana civil service rules and state statutes and bylaws of the authority.

Montgomery’s resignation left the board with just two members, short of the three-member quorum needed to take any action.

Zahn said among the reasons for his decision Friday was Starling’s cancellation of a multi-vendor contract without due cause and questionable credits on his resume.

“Our internal investigation found numerous instances of potential ethical and procedural violations, which at the very least give an overwhelming sense of impropriety at the Kenner Housing Authority. This will not be tolerated, especially given the mission of this very important organization,” Zahn said in a statement.

Zahn also expressed concern that Starling’s résumé showed graduate work from a college called Belford University with no physical location, culminating with his receipt of a Master’s Degree in Urban Development, as well as his departure from two previous HUD leadership posts. Starling voluntarily vacated a HUD executive director position in Rhode Island amid allegations of mismanagement, and was removed from a similar post in Florida by federal investigators.

Kenner launched an investigation into the Housing Authority Board after Montgomery resigned. At the time, Zahn called on the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney and the city’s internal auditor, among others, to investigate the allegations made in Montgomery’s letter. She wrote the “board is so dysfunctional, that it is not capable of dealing seriously with serious violations.”

Montgomery also accused Starling of hiring cronies to work at the agency and also of bullying behavior.

Starling, in a separate letter to Zahn, accused Montgomery of being disruptive and uncooperative. He also said previously that accusations of wrongdoing leveled at him and Richard were false. They characterized Montgomery as a hostile obstructionist who routinely harassed Starling and others.

A telephone listing for Starling and Montgomery were unavailable. A message left for Richard was not immediately returned.

Zahn said he would replace the board soon. He also said HUD advisers, along with a to-be-determined third party contractor, should be brought in to train and counsel the incoming board to ensure compliance with all protocols and regulations.

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