Deal in works for parish attorney Roper to move to new position

Embattled Parish Attorney Mary Roper struck an eleven th-hour deal on Wednesday to secure another job that’s being created for her in the city-parish government, while agreeing to vacate her position as the parish government’s chief lawyer.

The agreement came hours before a scheduled personnel hearing before the Metro Council where Roper was set to appeal to keep her job. The council voted last month expressing its intention to remove her.

Both Roper and the council members who have been angling to oust her refused comment for the story, except for Councilman John Delgado, who made the motion on Wednesday to defer Roper’s hearing to August 13.

He would only say that, “We are working toward an amicable resolution.”

However, sources close to the negotiations say Roper will not have to face a potentially messy hearing because a legal position is being created for her in the City-Parish Employee Retirement System.

At a later date, Roper is expected to accept a job as the legal adviser for the retirement system, which would remove her from the Parish Attorney’s Office but allow her to remain an employee of the city-parish and, in the process, keep her eligibility for a government pension.

The staff position doesn’t exist yet. But on Thursday morning, the Board of Trustees for the Retirement System is holding a special meeting to take up the single agenda item of “consideration of legal representation for CPERS.”

The Metro Council’s approval is also required to create the position.

The retirement system currently contracts out legal work. In 2013, the agency spent about $79,000 on legal work contracted to law firm Akers and Wisbar, according to budget documents.

Delgado, along with council members Buddy Amoroso and Trae Welch, had sponsored the original motion to remove Roper from her position.

Speculation has swirled in recent days that Roper was in negotiations with the council members to resign as parish attorney and take another position in city-parish government, in an effort to avoid what was expected to be a long and contentious hearing with detailed grievances aired by both sides.

In the days before the hearing, Roper antagonized her bosses by filing public record requests for emails, text messages and social media conversations of five of the council members in an effort to defend herself. She also filed requests to depose the council members, but subsequently withdrew the requests.

A faction of the council expressed that they had lost confidence in Roper for several reasons.

She was initially asked to take leave by Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe after it was discovered she had sent her husband the source codes for the city-parish’s copyrighted software program.

Roper said she was just asking for technical help from her husband, who is a software programmer, while applying for the copyright. But some council members framed the action as an unauthorized disclosure of proprietary information.

Council members also raised concerns about Roper’s management of the office, and issues of accountability related to conflicts of interest and her employees time dedicated to their private practices.

The move split the council with some members accusing the three attorneys on the council of plotting to remove Roper so they could appoint a friend. Roper also said she felt the move was politically motivated, noting that Loupe previously tried to remove her in 2009 and 2010.

Roper has been with the Parish Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years, and was appointed head of the office in 2008. She is paid $120,994 annually.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen.

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