The Williamsburg Housing Authority Board of Directors placed its executive director on paid administrative leave Friday afternoon pending the outcome of a conclusive investigation by the Williamsburg Police Department, which is being assisted by the FBI.
The housing authority board held a special meeting Friday afternoon and met in executive session for about 30 minutes before adjourning back into regular session and voting to place James Lovitt on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation.
The board also voted to remove Lovitt’s name from all housing authority financial accounts “effective immediately” pending the outcome of the investigation.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said that Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird notified him about two weeks ago concerning the investigation.
Bird confirmed Friday afternoon that his department has an active investigation underway concerning the housing authority.
The investigation started about three weeks ago when the department received information about some “misappropriations with finances.”
“We executed a search warrant at the Housing Authority about two-and-one-half weeks ago. The London FBI assisted us with the search warrant that is kind of where we are at right now,” Bird said. “We are still investigating. We are looking at financial records.”
The findings of the investigation will be presented to the Whitley County Grand Jury, Bird said.
Bird and Williamsburg Police Lt. Bobby Freeman are leading the investigation.
Bird said the FBI is assisting his department “for now” with information obtained from computers confiscated while executing the search warrant.
“If we find anything that meets their (the FBI’s) threshold, then there is a possibility there could be federal charges. Right now we are still going through financial records. There are a lot of them. It may be a little while before we know anything,” Bird noted.
Bird said that Lovitt is probably “very aware” of the investigation at this point.
The Williamsburg Police Department is also working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional office in Louisville, and with HUD’s Office of Inspector General out of Memphis, Tennessee.
Williamsburg Housing Authority Board Chairman John Brown said that Lovitt had worked for the housing authority for approximately 14 years before being named executive director about six years ago.
Lovitt replaced Boots Hamblin as executive director of the housing authority. She retired in 2013, according to her Facebook page.
As director, Lovitt oversaw the day-to-day operations of the housing authority.
Lovitt didn’t attend Friday’s meeting, but Brown noted that he made Lovitt aware of it.
After Friday’s meeting adjourned, Brown noted that Lovitt was probably still at work.
After the meeting, the board prepared a letter that was presented to Lovitt.
Harrison said that Lovitt was called by phone, and went to Williamsburg City Hall where he was presented with a copy of the letter in person.
The letter, which was signed by Brown as chairperson of the housing authority, reads as follows:
“Dr. Mr. Lovitt, The purpose of this letter is to advise you on the board’s decision to suspend you with pay pending the outcome of an investigation being conducted by an outside agency. The reason for this decision is based on the Housing Authority’s Personnel Policies and Administrative Guidelines of bringing discredit upon the Housing Authority.”
“Please turn in any keys, cards, laptops and any additional property of the Williamsburg Housing Authority that you may have in your possession to City Hall. Your suspension will begin on August 23, 2019, and will continue until the investigation is completed.”
“During the period of suspension, you are restricted from all areas of the Williamsburg Housing Authority. Further, you are not to remotely access the Housing Authority’s employee technology resources (email, mainframe, etc.) or otherwise perform work for the Housing Authority. You have been advised by the Board on August 23, 2019, regarding the nature of this suspension.”
Harrison said that the board isn’t conducting any kind of investigation of its own, and is waiting on the outcome of the law enforcement investigation.
Harrison said that the Williamsburg Housing Authority would be consulting the regional housing authority while moving forward particularly in regards to day-to-day operations.
Harrison said that to his knowledge, Lovitt hasn’t been the subject of any other disciplinary action during his tenure working for the housing authority.
Housing authority board members attending Friday’s meeting were Harrison, Brown, Larry Prindle and Bill Brown. Board member Debbie Mays wasn’t present at Friday’s meeting due to work.
Harrison noted that Mays said she could have attended if necessary, but because the other board members were there, Mays presence wasn’t needed in order to have a quorum.
Angie Bowling-Lewis, who usually serves as Harrison’s proxy on the board, also attended the meeting and the executive session.
Lovitt was sent a message by Facebook Messenger late Friday afternoon to see if he wanted to make any comments regarding the matter.
As of the time of the online posting of this story, the News Journal hadn’t received any reply.