NEW ROADS — A motion to place the Pointe Coupee Parish administrator on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into the sale of scrap metal materials never saw the light of day Tuesday.
In a 10-1 vote, the Police Jury struck Juror Albert “Dewey” Dukes’ request from its agenda just minutes after the meeting began.
Juror Cornell Dukes was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Dukes asked the jury to place Jim Bello on administrative leave because of new information he received from Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux, which explained her handling of scrap metal funds.
The parish’s longtime practice of selling old culverts and other materials stored at the parish’s maintenance facility to a Port Allen scrap yard became controversial after it became public that receipts from the sales were spent for more than a decade on annual Christmas parties for employees.
Earlier this year, the state Attorney General’s Office looked into the matter to determine if any wrongdoing had occurred on the part of parish employees and administrative officials.
According to the parish treasurer’s report prompting Dukes’ request, Bello was one of several parish officials Mayeux said instructed her on handling and depositing about $4,800 from 2011 sales of scrap metal.
Police Juror Justin Cox, who made the motion to strike Duke’s request from the agenda, said Mayeux’s report wasn’t new information.
The jury had already received Mayeux’s report at a previous meeting, Cox said.
“For anyone to suggest this jury should investigate itself is trying to interfere with this investigation,” Cox said in a prepared statement.
Dewey Dukes, he said, “has participated and attended these parties. Once we receive the (district attorney’s) report, then we will handle it accordingly.”
Jury President Melanie Bueche then ordered Dewey Dukes removed from the various Police Jury committees on which he served, citing his alleged recent bullying and harassment of parish employees about the issue.
Bueche issued a statement saying the jury has a responsibility to protect its employees from “disgraceful behavior.”
“Several weeks ago, the Police Jury censured Mr. Dukes by sending him a letter requesting that he refrain from this activity,” Bueche read. “It has only gotten worse.”
Dukes countered he was the victim of political bullying by Bueche and accused her of withholding information from him regarding the scrap metal investigation.
“If asking about scrap metal and money that’s missing is harassment, then that’s what it’s going to be,” Dukes said just before he walked out of the meeting.
“It’s clear that Mrs. Bueche and some other people would like this to go away. And that might be the best thing for some people — if you’re involved,” he said.
Bueche then told Dukes: “I didn’t remove you because you wanted to know something about scrap metal. I removed you from the positions because of your harassment of your employees and our employees.”
The jury later approved a request from Cox seeking legal advice from the District Attorney’s Office, the jury’s labor attorney and the legislative auditor regarding how the jury should properly protect its employees from harassment and intimidation.