Even though he is suspended, the Williamsburg Housing Authority’s executive director still has a job at least on paper, but as of Sept. 11, he is no longer getting paid for that job.
On Aug. 23, the Williamsburg Housing Authority’s Board of Directors voted to suspended Executive Director James R. Lovitt, 52, of Williamsburg, with pay pending the outcome of a conclusive police investigation.
On Sept. 2, Williamsburg Police Lt. Bobby Freeman arrested Lovitt charging him with second-degree forgery and abuse of the public trust over $10,000 but less than $100,000, and he was released from jail on Sept. 10.
During a special called meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Williamsburg Housing Authority’s Board of Directors met in executive session for about 40 minutes before returning to regular session and voting to change Lovitt’s suspension from with pay to without pay.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison, who is a member of the housing authority’s board of directors, said he believes that the board is on firm legal footing changing the suspension to without pay, especially in light of Lovitt’s arrest.
Harrison noted the authority’s policies and procedures policy, which allows disciplinary action for misconduct affecting the employee’s work or “bringing discredit” upon the authority.
The punishments allowed include: a letter of reprimand, suspension without pay, reduction in position or discharge.
The policies and procedures policy also allows for immediate discharge for falsification or forgery of authority records or documents, and “thievery or stealing” from the authority, employees of the authority or authority residents.
“We chose to do the suspension with pay at first because they were still doing a lot of investigation. There is still an ongoing investigation but at this point we feel like we are on strong ground to move it to without pay,” Harrison said.
In early August, Williamsburg police received a tip about the possibility of misappropriated federal funds from the housing authority and began an investigation.
A few days later, Williamsburg police developed enough information to obtain a search warrant for housing authority records, and have sent out subpoenas for several financial records, which they are still sorting through, Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird said previously.
So far, the misappropriated money totals nearly $10,000.
“What we know right now that we see immediately is that he has forged numerous checks in the names of individuals, who did not receive that money. Nor did they sign or cash any checks. Nor have they ever done any work for the housing authority,” Bird said.
“We also uncovered some manufactured receipts claiming that certain individuals did work for the housing authority when in fact they did not. We felt like we needed to go ahead and charge him with what we knew as of right now. We will present our other findings to probably the October grand jury. In the mean time we will be in conversation with the FBI and the housing authority Office of Inspector General (OIG) office, and see where it goes from there. … I don’t want to speculate when it started, but I know it at least went back two years,” Bird noted.
Lovitt, who has worked for the housing authority for nearly 20 years, has been executive director since 2013.
The board also voted Wednesday to hire retired Corbin Housing Authority Executive Director Dora Mobley as its interim executive director provided that she is willing to accept the position.
The board voted to give Harrison the authority to contact Mobley to see if she is willing to accept the position for a period of three to six months.
Harrison said that at one time, Mobley previously worked at the Williamsburg Housing Authority before going to work in Corbin.
“She is a wonderful person,” Harrison said. “The board wanted to at least have somebody, who could jump right in and help steer the ship and it gives the board time to go through a good in depth search for a director.”
In addition, during Wednesday’s meeting, the board announced that it was postponing’s Thursday’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting until Sept. 19 at 1 p.m. at the housing authority office.
The meeting is being postponed in part so the board can determine whether Mobley accepts the interim executive director’s position, or another candidate will be needed.
The board took one other action during the Wednesday’s meeting hiring Kentucky Climate Control out of Corbin to replace the heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system for 24 units at a cost of $87,800.