NAACP questions personnel moves

The NAACP met behind closed doors Wednesday to complain to the head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control that his high-profile efforts to cut his agency’s budget discriminated against black employees.

Mike McClanahan, president of the Baton Rouge branch of the NAACP, says the number of minority supervisors decreased 55 percent and enforcement personnel dropped by 62 percent during the past two years of Alcohol & Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert’s tenure leading ATC, the state agency regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

“What we have gotten is some evidence of discriminatory intent going on in his department,” McClanahan said.

Hebert says the numbers he has do not support the NAACP allegations.

Hebert said when he took over in November 2010, the agency employed 23 African Americans, or 32 percent of the total. Since that time the total number of state workers has dropped.

Eighteen of the current ATC employees are black, which is 34 percent of the total, Hebert said.

For the fiscal year that began July 1, the ATC was authorized to have 57 positions and an annual budget of $6.3 million, according to the state budget law. When he took over the agency in November 2010, the agency had 79 authorized employees and a budget of $7.2 million.

In addition to reducing the budget, primarily by trimming staff, Hebert said the ATC now issues alcohol permits in about half the time, issues about twice as many citations and cut customer service waiting time by 90 minutes.

“I understand how it works. Employees who used to not do a whole lot of work, when the new person comes in and makes them work, they become disgruntled,” Hebert said. “I have never fired an African-American employee. I’m not sure where they are getting their numbers from.”

Saying in October 2012 that he inherited a troubled and bloated agency, the former state senator also took controversial steps, such as attaching Global Position System devices on agents’ vehicles. The GPS devices showed that some of the agents were taking extended lunch breaks, reporting to work late and leaving early.

“For someone to come around and not give them due deference when they’re working hard and working their butt off for the state is just unacceptable,” McClanahan said after emerging from a closed-door meeting with Hebert and Jason DeCuir, executive counsel for the state Department of Revenue, which oversees the ATC.

McClanahan stood by his numbers, which he said came from ATC employees, and compared minority-race employees and supervisors by name who were employed at the agency during Hebert’s tenure with those still employed at the agency.

DeCuir promised to provide additional data that would indicate when each of the employees was hired, which would provide a better insight into the NAACP allegations, McClanahan said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People then would consider whether to file a lawsuit, he said. About five of the impacted employees have filed or are in the process of filing lawsuits, McClanahan said.