PORT ALLEN — The City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday not to pay former Mayor Derek Lewis about $19,000 he says the city owes him in accrued vacation time.
Lewis resigned in June shortly before pleading guilty to a federal racketeering charge.
Lewis, 50, admitted he accepted bribes from undercover operatives posing as businessmen who were looking for a city contract.
The phony businessmen were pitching an FBI-created garbage can cleaning service known as Cifer 5000.
Lewis was not present during Wednesday’s meeting, but when reached by phone afterward, the former mayor called the City Council’s vote “racist.”
“It’s a true sign of racism,” he said. “That’s all that is. The documentation is there; they have the tapes. I knew it was coming, I knew they weren’t going to pay me, but every dog has its day.”
Lewis said he would pursue legal action to compel the city to pay him for 420 hours, or about $19,000, in vacation pay he said he is owed.
The “tapes” to which he referred are audio recordings of the City Council’s March 10, 2010, meeting during which Lewis informed the council that he was taking his first-ever vacation while in office.
The city’s acting chief administrative officer, Cenceria Dalcourt, told the council Wednesday that she listened to the tapes and that Lewis did, in fact, go on record as saying that he had not previously used any vacation time.
But that didn’t sway Mayor Pro-Tem Ralph Bergeron, Hugh “Hootie” Riviere or Roger Bergeron, the three council members who voted against paying Lewis.
Ralph Bergeron said he doesn’t dispute Lewis’ statement during the March 2010 meeting, but said he could not vote to pay Lewis without written documentation of the hours the former mayor worked.
The city has neither previously documented nor presently documents the hours worked by certain employees, several city officials have said this month.
Riviere said he fears that paying Lewis without written documentation would be illegal.
“I felt that way two months ago, and I still feel that way,’ Riviere said.
Councilman Irvrie Johnson, who voted to pay the former mayor, said that to his recollection, one of the city’s former police chiefs, Adrian Genre, also left office as a result of a federal conviction and the city subsequently paid him for the hours he worked.
Johnson further said that if Lewis takes the matter to court and wins, the city likely would be on the hook to shell out money for the former mayor’s unused vacation time plus his attorney fees.
Councilwoman Ray Helen Lawrence also voted to pay Lewis.
Lawrence said the whole incident makes clear the need for the city to beef up its Human Resources Department.