NEW IBERIA —For a third time the Iberia Parish Council voted down the nomination of Ricky Verret for chief administrative officer, the top administrative position in the parish government overseeing most of its operations.
The parish has hired an accounting firm to help with its budget, a process that would normally be handled by a chief financial officer, another critical but unfilled position in parish government.
Verret’s appointment failed 13-3 Wednesday and some council members urged Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero to end the nominations. Former CAO Joel Dugas resigned in June and former CFO Officer Kim Segura resigned in September.
Council member Troy Comeaux asked Verret why he was at a Leadership Iberia function Nov. 29 with the parish president handing out certificates. He said Verret being seen working with the parish president when he is not an employee is misrepresenting parish government.
Verret said he was attending the event as a private person and did not appreciate the attacks. He said he was asked to apply for the CAO position and since then, has been verbally attacked in public for just wanting the job.
Council members Troy Comeaux, Thomas Landry, Bernard Broussard, Ricky J. Gonsoulin, David Ditch, Aquicline Arnold, Jerome Fitch, David Wayne Romero, Roger Duncan and Marty Trahan voted against Verret’s nomination Wednesday. Council members Maggie Daniels, Lloyd Brown and Curtis Baudoin voted for the resolution, and Glenn Romero and was absent.
Errol Romero said the lack of a CAO is holding back parish government. He added that he read an article in the Daily Iberian which quoted Broussard as saying the parish president was holding off nominating a CFO until a CAO was named.
Errol Romero said the charter gives him the power to hire whom he wants and in what order and it’s the council’s responsibility to approve them. The council’s unreasonable votes and ongoing controversies between his office and the council have kept qualified CFO candidates from applying, he said.
Broussard told Errol Romero that the parish charter gives the council the power to approve the parish president’s nominations, but it does not tell the council whom to vote for.
After the meeting, Broussard said Romero’s refusal to nominate a CFO is more damaging than not having a CAO.
Broussard said that not having a CFO has slowed the budget review and approval process. The council has been working for three months to assemble a 2013 budget, he said. The council voted unanimously to hire Kolder, Champagne, Slaven and Co. to consult with parish government on the budget.
The budget deadline is Dec. 31.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
EXECUTIVE SESSION: The council voted unanimously to turn the details of a potential lawsuit over to the District Attorney’s Office risk management team after meeting in executive session with former parish government employee Vicky Pellerin, who was demoted after Errol Romero took office.
Pellerin later resigned and is seeking “damages for the loss of sick leave and benefits due to my forced separation from Iberia Parish Government in June 2012,” according to a letter she wrote to the council.
LEVEE TAX: The council voted unanimously to hold an election on April 6 for voters to consider a half-cent sales tax and 2 mill property tax. If passed, the revenue generated would go to the Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District to build a 20-foot-tall levee that will be constructed parallel to the coast in order to protect against erosion and storm surges.