Local housing leaders put the legal circus of who is representing their agency to rest during a Monday meeting.
There was confusion with the Housing Authority Board after it was reported to them that their board attorney had been terminated by Executive Director Alpresteon Billings, and a new attorney was procured in his place.
Barry Bridgforth, the Housing Board attorney, has continued his work with the commissioners, particularly involving a multi-million-dollar Rental Assistance Demonstration development. But another attorney, Tony Gaylor from Jackson, has attended a few Housing Authority meetings and is included in email communication surrounding Housing Authority business.
Billings said she did execute a contract with Gaylor based upon the Authority’s procurement policy. However, she said Gaylor has not received any payment.
But the Housing Board eliminated the confusion this week verifying that Bridgforth is the board attorney, and that Billings had no right to terminate him or bring Gaylor onboard.
Billings said she was informed that Bridgforth represented the Housing Authority Board only. But she added that Gaylor was brought to the table to cover her bases.
“I don’t have a problem with Barry,” Billings said. “But I have to do my job. I wouldn’t want to jeopardize this agency or myself. I want to make sure that I do what is correct. I am not going to jail fooling with federal funds.”
Commissioner Veronica Starling said Billings may have misunderstand comments made about legal representation. She admits she told Billings that Bridgforth represented the Housing Authority, adding that he is not a personal attorney.
“That is why I said you couldn’t fire him,” Starling said, to Billings. “You terminated hm, and he is not your attorney to terminate.”
Housing Chairman Danny Neely added that no one can terminate the board attorney but the Housing Board.
Commissioner Herbert Scott Jr. said Billings can make a recommendation to them in regard to hiring or firing the board attorney.
“But you didn’t make any recommendation,” Scott said, to Billings. “You had no authority to terminate or hire any attorney.”
The Housing Board then completed an official engagement letter with Bridgforth, citing him as the board attorney. The board also approved that Gaylor not receive any payment on behalf of the Housing Authority.
“Wipe (Gaylor) out,” Billings said. “He is not representing the Housing Authority in any capacity.”
Neely then made the motion for the board to hire Lilli Evans-Bass to serve as a secondary attorney to accompany Bridgforth in completing the RAD project and its length process. Evans-Bass currently serves as the board attorney for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
There was no opposition to bringing Evans-Bass onboard.