Talks resume on new director for Port of Iberia

Port of Iberia commissioners revived their discussions Friday on how to go about replacing the port’s executive director, Roy Pontiff, who is retiring.

Commissioners had previously discussed a process to replace Pontiff but abandoned it in 2012 when Pontiff decided to delay his retirement until a major port expansion was completed in late 2013.

The Port of Iberia covers thousands of acres of waterfront property south of New Iberia, from which hundreds of oil and gas service companies operate.

Pontiff is now set to retire at the end of August, so the port board’s Policies and Procedures Committee restarted the director search process.

They didn’t get very far Friday.

Board attorney Raymond Allain told the committee that once Pontiff retires Aug. 31, the six-year terms of all seven Board of Commissioners expire just a few weeks later, on Sept. 19.

He said Louisiana law prohibits the board from awarding a director a contract that would extend beyond the terms of the board members, who are appointed by the Iberia Parish Council and parish municipalities.

Although it’s possible all seven board members would be reappointed, Allain said, state law still prohibits them from making an employment pact with a director beyond the date their terms expire.

“If you interview (candidates) you will be limited in your capacity,” Allain said. “The membership of this commission may change. … It’s possible not all members will return.”

Some commissioners wondered aloud whether the director candidate chosen would take the position with the uncertainty about a long-term deal.

The board had hired outside help to search for candidates in 2012, narrowing the field to six before Pontiff decided to postpone his retirement.

Commissioner Gene Jefferies said he believes the money and months spent in 2012 gathering applicant names and credentials, then winnowing the list to six, should not go to waste.

“We haven’t ever talked to them,” Jefferies said.

Jefferies suggested port officials call the six who made the short list in 2012 to gauge whether they still were interested.

Frank Minvielle, another commissioner, said there already was a qualified person willing to take the job no matter the short-term uncertainty.

Minvielle said Raymond Bernard, a former port commissioner who attended the committee meeting Friday, was ready to be interviewed then and there.

“We have a hometown boy … who is willing to serve as the director,” Minvielle said.

“We have to put him up against some competition,” Jefferies responded.

Allain said Bernard would not be able to serve as port director until two years after his June 29, 2012, resignation from the board. Bernard served eight years.

The attorney also said he was not sure if the board could even interview Bernard or look at his résumé before the two-year period had elapsed.

Board members instructed Allain to contact the Louisiana Board of Ethics for an opinion on Bernard.

The committee decided to continue the discussion at the full board’s Feb. 25 meeting.

Pontiff has been the port’s executive director since 1997, and has wanted to retire for the last few years.

“Can we talk about Roy staying on a few more months?” Jefferies said, smiling.

“You can talk,” Pontiff said.