You didn’t need more evidence of serious problems on the Lawrence County Housing Authority. But there it is.

When it was revealed last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was suspending Gary Felasco from the authority board, you would have thought it would be welcome news for others on the panel.

After all, Felasco — the Lawrence County treasurer — is facing serious criminal charges, which led to his suspension.

But more than that, Felasco has become the embodiment of civic embarrassment. He has brought shame not only to himself with his assorted antics, but to his community. And he has certainly brought it to anyone who has seen fit to associate with him.

So one might expect a collective sigh of relief rising from the authority board after members were informed of Felasco’s suspension. Instead, it was painfully clear that many of the members were much more concerned about Felasco and his treatment than they were the authority’s ties to him.

Complaining about HUD’s decision to suspend Felasco, board member Jeffrey Scrim declared, “They shouldn’t be able to come in and do something to our employees.” (Scrim, who also serves as fire chief in New Castle, apparently does not understand the difference between an appointed board member and an employee.)

Then there was the whining from board member Donald “Ducky” Conti, who groused: “Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? If they can do this to him, they can do this to us.”

We might point out that suspension from the housing authority board is not a criminal procedure and therefore Conti’s legalisms lacked legitimacy. But more intriguing is the other issue he raises: Why hasn’t HUD suspended Conti as well?

After all, Conti is also facing criminal charges at the moment. Yes, this is a stellar group serving on the Lawrence County Housing Authority. The community can be proud.

All sarcasm aside, it is our fervent hope that the Felasco suspension marks the beginning of a much deeper involvement by HUD into the housing authority’s antics. In the past, we have questioned certain contracts, hirings and purchases. A substantial amount of public money goes through the authority and we frequently find ourselves wondering about the adequacy of oversight.

Further, if there is lax monitoring of spending with this county’s housing authority, is the problem just as bad elsewhere? Is HUD doing its job?

At least we can applaud the suspension of Felasco as a step in the right direction. Now all we need is for HUD to continue with the forward progress.

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