The Westwego City Council this week effectively upheld the removal of a commissioner from the city’s Housing Authority board, a move that left the ousted Rodney de la Gardelle vowing to take his case to court.
De la Gardelle was removed by Mayor John Shaddinger on Nov. 5 after the city determined he spent very little time at his house in Westwego and actually lived outside the city.
The administration presented water bills that showed only 700 gallons of water were used at de la Gardelle’s house on Chipley Street in the past 13 months. It also pointed to a driver’s license listing his address as 5425 Ehret Road in Marrero.
De la Gardelle, who had been on the board since December 2007, told the council Monday that the law requires only that he be a legal resident of Westwego. As evidence that he is, he said his homestead exemption, phone bill, bank statements and civic group memberships all list his residence as 836 Chipley St.
De la Gardelle said many council members and city officials own other properties, singling out City Attorney Joel Levy for owning a piece of property in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. “Does it make you not a resident of Westwego?” he asked. “No, it does not.”
The council, however, was not impressed, and members poked at aspects of de la Gardelle’s case.
De la Gardelle had protested that the Marrero address on his driver’s license, which is valid until early next year, does not prove he lives in Marrero. But when he provided the council with a license from his wallet that showed the Chipley Street address, members quickly noted that he had just gotten it renewed on Nov. 19.
Levy said a water bill that de la Gardelle presented had the usage amounts blacked out.
Councilman Johnny Nobles, who lives near the Chipley property, said he knows that de la Gardelle spent a lot of time at the Marrero house while he cared for his ailing father, but “since your father’s passing, you didn’t come back.”
“I know damn well you don’t live there,” Nobles said.
When Nobles said the only way he could account for the lack of a car in the driveway at night was if de la Gardelle was sneaking in through the backyard, de la Gardelle countered that he often is dropped off there by someone else — a claim that met with skepticism from the council and the audience.
Councilman Glenn Green told de la Gardelle that while he has no issues with him personally, “I know you don’t live here.”
“Almost everything you’ve given me is circumstantial,” he said.
Green and Councilman Larry Warino asked why the council was even taking up the matter, given that the appointment is within the mayor’s discretion. Levy said de la Gardelle was entitled to a hearing under state law and the council was giving it to him.
After the council unanimously passed a motion to accept whatever decision was made by the mayor without weighing in one way or another, Shaddinger said the matter “stands as read. You are officially terminated.”
Gathering up his papers from the lectern, de la Gardelle warned he would appeal the decision to “the appropriate jurisdiction.”
“All right, good luck,” Shaddinger replied.
The Housing Authority oversees about 300 affordable housing units in four locations throughout the city. It has 11 employees, including its executive director, Shirley Arceneaux. Shaddinger did not say when he would appoint someone to replace de la Gardelle.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.
This story was changed on Dec. 11, 2014 to correct Rodney de la Gardelle’s title. Before his removal, de la Gardelle was a commissioner on the Westwego Housing Authority’s board.