NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish Council passed with a 10-1 vote Wednesday a resolution that paves way for hiring an insurance consultant.

The current insurance consultant, Mark Romero, works for free.

In February, the council approved more than $740,000 in liability insurance, property insurance and workers compensation contracts to some local and some out-of town agencies. Council member Lloyd Brown and other council members argued that all the agencies awarded contracts should have been local.

Brown introduced the resolution Wednesday that would set aside $20,000 to hire an insurance consultant instead of relying on an unpaid person. Brown said he wanted to model the position after that of the Iberia Parish School Board.

The School Board’s insurance consultant, John Norris of Baton Rouge, has a $1 million omissions and errors insurance policy that protects the board from mistakes he might make while working for the board, Brown said.

Norris, who attended the Wednesday meeting at Brown’s request, said he works as a consultant for 10 government entities in the state and always tries to include only local agencies in the bid process.

Norris said that process changes if the prices are too high or if the agents are trying to drive up the costs artificially.

He added that he charges the School Board about $15,000.

Councilman Thomas Landry said that he wanted Romero present to discuss the resolution, but his substitute motion to table the resolution failed to pass.

Councilman Bernard Broussard said Brown’s resolution does not mandate that the council hire someone. It only sets aside the money for use if the council decides to hire someone, he said.

The council will have to draw up a proposal, advertise and take other steps before someone is hired and could also choose not to hire someone, Broussard said.

Brown added that the council could choose to hire Romero if he provides omissions and errors insurance that Norris has.

Parish President Ernest Freyou said that he brought a similar proposal to the council after he was elected.

Romero volunteered his services because Freyou’s office didn’t have anyone who knew how to put together insurance proposals for bids, he said.

Armand Schwing, an agent with Schwing insurance agency, said hiring a paid consultant will also protect the parish if ethics violations or other laws are broken by an unpaid insurance consultant.

He praised Romero’s work and said he was not trying to say anything negative about him.

Voting for the resolution were council members Maggie Daniels, Brown, Troy Comeaux, Broussard, John Berard, Glenn Romero, Roger Duncan, Jerome Fitch, Aquicline Arnold and Larry Richard.

Landry voted against it. Curtis Baudoin, Barry Verret and Naray Hulin were absent.