Three St. Helena Parish government employees say they heard nothing about the possibility of losing their jobs until they saw it on the Police Jury’s agenda for Tuesday night.
Jury President Jule Charles Wascom will recommend the layoffs of Grants Administrator Virginia Bell, Building Inspector Edward Scott Galmon and E-911 Director Shanedda Jackson, as well as other personnel moves and cost-cutting measures, he said Monday afternoon.
The proposed moves are in response to accountant Terry Sibley’s insistence that the Police Jury cut back on expenses, Wascom said.
The parish has run a deficit the past five years totaling $863,840, according to parish records.
“Terry said we can’t make it like we’re going,” Wascom said. “We’ve been transferring money out of one fund into another just to make payroll.”
Wascom said he did not know how much the parish needs to cut, only that the need is urgent.
Wascom also said he did not discuss the potential layoffs with the employees named on the agenda, nor with the Police Jury’s Personnel Committee.
“Bell, the grants administrator, also said she was surprised by the move.
“These things just appear out of nowhere,” Bell said. “You come to work one day and your name is on the agenda, and you don’t have any reason why.”
The jurors have been discussing the need to cut expenses for several months, but nothing like this was mentioned, Bell said.
“The last time this came up, I said, ‘Give me some time to present some cuts,’ and we did that to the tune of nearly $200,000,” Bell said. “But none of that was considered.”
The Police Jury will meet at 6 p.m. in the government building, 17911 La. 43 in Greensburg.
“It’s an at-will state, and he (Wascom) has the ability, but I don’t think it’s a wise choice,” Galmon said.
Like Bell, Jackson also was “surprised” by the potential layoff.
“I’ve never been before Personnel (Committee), never been written up, never been questioned about my job,” Jackson said. “It was a total surprise to me.”
Wascom said Bell’s list of suggested cuts, which included the elimination of things like coffee purchases and
rug cleaning services, will be part of his recommendations Tuesday night as well, though they are not listed on the agenda.
Other recommendations listed on the agenda are to transfer Rita Allen from the parish’s tourist center to the E-911 office, cut Building Official Tresa Byrd’s work week to three days, “eliminate some parish vehicles” and “discuss other areas to cut.”