Marcus Bruno returns to city-parish government; plans to improve relations with north side, fight blight _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- Marcus Bruno, officer of government affairs for Lafayette Consolidated Government, is pictured Friday, January 29, 2016, in Lafayette, La.

By some accounts, Marcus Bruno was pushed out of city-parish government six years ago because he stepped on the wrong toes.

Bruno, who at one time oversaw a one-stop-shop of sorts to combat blight issues, lost his job in a 2009 departmental reorganization that former Lafayette Mayor-President Joey Durel touted as a way to streamline government by shifting Bruno’s duties to other employees.

Bruno and his supporters saw other forces at work — the ousting of someone who went too far in pressuring landlords with problem rental properties on the north side of Lafayette.

“They wanted me to go so far and then stop. They didn’t want me to go after rich people with houses on the north side,” said Bruno, who was brought back to city-parish government earlier this year by newly elected Mayor-President Joel Robideaux.

Bruno, who in his new role will work directly with Robideaux and department heads, said he plans to revive anti-blight initiatives and work to build better relationships with the smaller municipalities in the parish, the Legislature and the north side.

“I think the community views him as a tremendous asset,” Robideaux said. “He is not only on board, but on board in a capacity that he deserves.”

Bruno has a long history with city-parish government.

He started his career as a Lafayette police officer, left for a few years to work for the state Public Service Commission, then returned to city-parish government in 1996.

Over the years, he oversaw substance abuse services, worked to bridge the gap between police and the community, spearheaded anti-blight efforts, and helped develop a program that brought police, prosecutors and city-parish government together to address crime on the north side.

Bruno often was in the public eye as he went to court to force property owners to address drug activity, noise, junked vehicles and building code violations, and he often found himself at odds with the owners of apartment complexes and other rental properties.

“These were very powerful and influential people who were close to the administration and shut him down. It became offensive and unacceptable to an influential group of people,” said City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux.

Boudreaux fought unsuccessfully for Bruno’s job six years ago and said he welcomes him back to city-parish government.

“He was removed for unjust reasons. I think it makes amends to a certain degree, rights a wrong,” Boudreaux said.

Durel, in pushing the departmental reorganization that did away with Bruno’s position, didn’t criticize his work but rather said there was no need to have one employee dedicated to it.

At the time, Durel pledged to continue focusing hard on blight issues, but Boudreaux said no one stepped in to pull together the multi-departmental initiatives Bruno had led.

“That simply fell by the wayside,” Boudreaux said.

Bruno said he had been consulting for inmate work release and rehabilitation programs when Robideaux approached him last year while doing campaign outreach on the north side of Lafayette.

“It was just one of those situations where we hit it off,” Robideaux recalled.

Robideaux said one of Bruno’s key roles will be rebuilding city-parish government’s strained relationship with the north side community and the smaller municipalities in the parish.

In his campaign last year, Robideaux criticized the Durel administration for poor performance on both fronts.

“We have just not had a good relationship with people on the north side of the parish or the parish in general,” Bruno said.

Bruno said he also will work the halls of the State Capitol to advocate for Lafayette — a task keeping him busy this spring — and plans to bring a new focus to blight and community development issues.

Bruno said he hopes to stoke more community involvement and to make sure residents trying to improve troubled neighborhoods have a direct line to city-parish government.

“We have some neighborhood groups that have been around a long time, but they don’t have that technical support,” Bruno said. “We are putting together a team to help them do that. The people we have in place now, they are all ready to move forward.”