After operating nearly three years with an interim director and following a nationwide search that cost about $32,000, Lafayette's fiber division found its new director at home.
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory announced via a news release Monday the appointment of Ryan Meche as Lafayette Utilities System's Fiber director, pending City Council approval of budget adjustments to fund the position.
Meche has been employed by LUS for 17 years, the last nine in fiber operations.
A Forbes magazine 'Top 10 Recruiting Firm' led "a competitive, nationwide search" that attracted seven applicants. Three of the applications came from LUS Fiber employees. The other applicants are from Georgia, Iowa, Maryland and Texas.
LCG paid the firm Linked Executive Search a $15,000 retainer, Jamie Angelle, LCG chief communications officer, said Monday. The contract with the company provides that if the new director's salary is less than $200,000, LCG will pay the company 28% of the director's first year salary minus the retainer.
Angelle did not know the new director's salary. Meche replaces Kayla Brooks, who has served as interim director since October 2019. Her salary when she was promoted to that position in October 2019 was $117,300 a year. Twenty-eight percent of $117,300 is $32,844. Removing the $15,000 retainer, LCG may owe the firm approximately $17,844.
Meche has been serving as engineer manager of Lafayette Utilities System's fiber operations. He was a founding member of the team that designed and launched the LUS fiber system and assisted in setting up the technology, infrastructure and construction of the fiber system, the release states.
While employed at LCG, he also works as a consulting engineer for a broad range of municipally and publicly owned companies.
Meche took over as interim director Monday and will become the permanent director once the City Council votes to approve budget adjustments needed to fund the permanent position.
LUS and the fiber system operated under a single director until 2018, when long-time LUS Director Terry Huval retired after allegations came to light that fiber operations were billing other LUS divisions for services not rendered and then-Mayor-President Joel Robideaux said he was removing fiber operations from Huval's oversight and cutting Huval's salary.
Robideaux appointed Jeff Stewart interim LUS director and Teles Fremin interim fiber director in 2018, later replacing Stewart with CAO Lowell Duhon and Fremin with Miles while conducting an internal investigation.
In August, a forensic audit by Carr, Riggs and Ingram CPAs of Metairie alleged Huval intentionally and unnecessarily billed LUS, and subsequently its customers, for connections and services to prop up fiber operations possibly in violation of the Fair Competition Act, Public Service Commission rules and other state laws.
Mayor-President Josh Guillory's administration forwarded the audit to the FBI.
Former District Attorney Keith Stutes, meanwhile, found insufficient evidence of a crime to charge Huval and, in December, the Louisiana Public Service Commission closed its case on the matter.