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Politics

Bond Commission to GMF: Final Answer is No

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GMF
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Global Ministries Foundation’s quest for Louisiana bond money to buy a New Orleans-East apartment complex may finally be over.

“I would like to make a motion again that we not approve this project, or defer it permanently, if we can,” State Senator Edwin Murray said during Thursday’s Louisiana Bond Commission meeting. “I don’t know what it takes to keep it off the agenda any further, but I just hope that it’s gone.”

It was the fifth time in as many months that GMF’s $24.5-million request encountered objections from residents of the surrounding community. The project is in State Representative Wesley Bishop’s district.

“We’re not against development. We’re not against anything that benefits New Orleans-East,” Bishop told fellow Bond Commission members. “But this is wrong. This is wrong as two left shoes.”

As previously reported here, over the past decade the non-profit organization has purchased numerous large apartment complexes across the South, using public funding sources like the bonds being requested for this project. The apartments are then converted to Section 8, federally subsidized housing. But GMF has run afoul of federal and local HUD regulations – most notably in Jacksonville, Florida, and the non-profit’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Sen. Murray, who also represents New Orleans-East, says GMF’s director, Rev. Richard Hamlet, has a proven track record of too many problems with too many properties.

“He has not proven to be a good property owner, landlord, member of the community—you name it. It’s all been bad across the board,” Murray insisted.

Last month, residents at the 220-unit Suffolk Manor -- one of GMF’s complexes -- in Lake Charles came within days of being cut off from city water service due to the management’s failure to repair a line that was dumping untreated sewage into the surrounding neighborhood.

State Treasurer John Kennedy, who chairs the Bond Commission, explained why the bond request keeps returning to the agenda.

“Our Attorney General signed a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice, which gives up some of the jurisdiction of the Bond Commission,” Kennedy stated. “Now I objected to that. He did it anyway. There’s a reasonable possibility – knowing as I do the Justice Department – we’re going to end up in court over this.”

Kennedy went on to warn Murray there could be repercussions for saying no to GMF.

“I think we’re probably going to get sued, Eddie.”

Murray replied, “The only way to stop that would be to cave in to anybody that comes before this commission. And we should not do that.”

Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne agreed, saying no is the only responsible answer.

“We have very carefully evaluated this within multiple meetings and I think the egregious behavior of the gentlemen involved and his companies certainly justifies a Bond Commission action to say that we’re going to reject this particular project,” Dardenne said, seconding the motion to reject the proposal, rather than simply table it.

“We have a motion to reject this project and this item on the agenda,” Kennedy then said. “We have a second. Is there any objection? Hearing no objection, the item is rejected.”