Thirty-seven employees of the Lafayette parks and recreation department lost their jobs Friday. At least 26 of them are Black. Some are parents. One is helping out his mother who is battling cancer.

The employees were earning anywhere from $16,800 a year by a center coordinator to $74,000 a year earned by the chief of the park police, saving LCG more than $1.1 million, LCG documents show.

Mayor-President Josh Guillory authorized the layoffs with 11 weeks remaining in the current fiscal year, citing the need to make cuts because of sales tax revenue lost during the COVID-19 business closures, despite a projected $33 million city fund balance at the end of the fiscal year Oct. 31.

In May, Guillory announced he was laying off 101 Lafayette Consolidated Government employees effective June 5 to cut expenses. Friday's layoffs bring the total to 138.

Marja Broussard, president of the Lafayette chapter of the NAACP, at a press conference in front of city hall Friday called it a sad day when the mayor doesn't listen to the cries of the community.

Laying off people who lose their income and health insurance in the middle of a pandemic, Broussard said, "is cold-hearted."

Guillory, in July, also announced the closing of four recreation centers in predominantly Black neighborhoods of north Lafayette. After public outcry and allegations that he was targeting Blacks, he has since tried to walk that back, saying the centers will remain open. But Guillory also recently accepted proposals from three outside entities interested in operating the centers on behalf of LCG.

Closing the recreation centers, along with the Lafayette Science Museum, the Nature Station, the Heymann Center for Performing Arts and elderly centers is the first phase of a larger plan to move arts, culture and recreation services away from government, the Rev. John Milton, a Lafayette attorney, said Friday.

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The NAACP and other individuals and groups for weeks have attended city and parish council meetings and rallies trying to convince Guillory and the councils to restore the cuts and keep centers open.

Milton, who previously suggested citizens defund LCG, on Friday encouraged all Lafayette Parish residents to take it a step further by shopping outside the parish to push for social and political justice.

He's still hopeful, Milton said, that the councils, the legislative branch of local government, can communicate with the executive branch, Guillory and his administration, to work out the problems so the judicial branch, the courts, don't have to become involved.

"We are declaring to this government we won't accept a dictator-style government," Devon Norman of the NAACP, said.

When disparities are allowed on the north side of Lafayette, Norman said, they will eventually spill over to the south side.

Jamie Angelle, chief communications officer for LCG, listened to the press conference from the sidelines. Asked why Guillory laid off the employees before the end of the current fiscal year, Angelle said if action wasn't taken now, the savings would shrink and more employees would have to be laid off later.

The parks and recreation employees weren't identified by race or gender, Angelle said, but by position. They come from throughout parks and recreation, not just the four targeted recreation centers on the north side.

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