The ongoing battle between Iberia Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero and the Parish Council has spilled over into federal court with a lawsuit filed over the council’s decision to stop funding the position of one of Romero’s appointments.
Romero had hired former news reporter Holly Leleux-Thubron as a maintenance supervisor with no apparent public works experience after the council did not approve his request to create a new parish government position for communications director.
The council cut funding for the maintenance supervisor position in September that Leleux-Thubron held. She filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Iberia Parish government and the Iberia Parish Council for what the lawsuit alleges was a termination without just cause.
The lawsuit comes as Romero’s administration is in year two of ongoing strife with the council over hiring and budgetary decisions.
Leleux-Thubron’s attorney, Michael Moity, wrote in a demand letter this month that council members cannot use their power over the parish budget to override Romero’s authority as parish president to oversee his administration’s workforce and their salaries.
Council Chairman Roger Duncan declined comment on the lawsuit.
Gary McGoffin, the attorney representing the council in the dispute, wrote in a letter responding to Leleux-Thubron’s claims that the council was obligated to act because the maintenance supervisor position is funded with property tax revenue legally restricted to drainage projects.
McGoffin wrote the “council never requested nor required the termination of the plaintiff,” only that the money for her salary come from somewhere else in the budget for work she did that was not related to drainage projects.
McGoffin added Leleux-Thubron had “no applicable employment experience” for the maintenance supervisor position, with her most recent jobs being a communications coordinator for a health care company and a reporter at The Daily Iberian newspaper.
An audit advised parish government last year to determine how Leleux-Thubron was splitting her time between maintenance supervisor duties and other tasks — she had also been serving as a spokeswoman for Romero — and to find another source of funding for duties not related to drainage projects.
In a written response to that audit, Romero’s administration argued Leleux-Thubron’s other work for parish government was “not in lieu of her duties as a maintenance supervisor, they are in addition. Therefore time compensation for additional duties would need to be made beyond an eight-hour workday.”
Leleux-Thubron’s lawsuit seeks damage for lost wages, mental anguish and embarrassment, among other things.