HTHA complainant insulted by board’s call for training

Senator Circle manager Troy Johnson calls a decision made by the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority Board of Commissioners a slap in the face of agency employees.

After bringing forth more than a half dozen complaints of what Johnson called policy violations against HTHA Executive Director Wayne Thibodeaux, the board launched an investigation that involved two executive session meetings within one week.

After its second session on Thursday, the public housing governing body, without naming names, voted to hire an expert to coach the executive director and staff members regarding workplace relationships.

“Training will take place as soon as we can arrange it,” Board Chairman Allan Luke said following a public meeting at the Senator Circle community center.

“I have to respect the decision of the board, but I wholeheartedly disagreed with it,” Johnson said. “When you have an executive director or CEO or anyone violate policies and get a slap on the wrist, it is a slap on the face of all those employees.”

Johnson resisted giving specifics of the complaints he and several other employees were interviewed about during a July 26 closed-door board session. He did, however, accuse Thibodeaux of what he called, “violations of policy, unfair treatment and unethical treatment” of employees including implications of racial discrimination.

“If I’m on the job and I see treatment that is unfair, I don’t care what your ethnic background is, I’m going to say it is wrong,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen Mr. Thibodeaux treat employees badly.”

Johnson and Thibodeaux both said that because the allegations were discussed in executive session they were not permitted to mention details. Board members also declined requests for specifics.

“I accept the decision of the board,” Thibodeaux said, declining to comment even on the investigatory procedure.

“I was proud to see everybody act in a professional manner,” Luke added.

The professional manner Luke referred to, according to Johnson, was a glossing-over of deeper issues concerning Thibodeaux and his interactions with staff and residents.

Johnson would not reveal details of his complaints, but did say he anticipates pending litigation. The housing manager declined to say if he or someone else would file formal charges against the housing authority executive.

When asked if Johnson anticipates further strain between himself and Thibodeaux, he said he will wait and see.

“I pray on everything I do, and I’m going to do what God wants me to do,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to change my character and look the other way when I see somebody being abused. I’m going to say something. If that puts a rift between us, then so be it.”

Thibodeaux has been executive director of the housing authority for six years. Johnson has been an employee of the agency for nine years.

The board offered no details into what kind of training it expects to conduct within the ranks.

Senator Circle manager Troy Johnson listens as the Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority Board of Commissioners moves to seek communications training for Executive Director Wayne Thibodeaux and staff members. Johnson said the board’s decision as a slap against the agency’s employees.