Probe targets Romero, District Attorney’s Office spat
NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish Council is taking another week to sort out details of a council-conducted investigation into a conflict between the District Attorney’s Office and Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero.
During its investigation, the council plans to issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear at special meetings at which council members will question them.
The council passed a resolution Wednesday that delayed approving plans for the investigation until its May 9 meeting.
The council has said it’s conducting the investigation because of a series of letters Romero wrote earlier this year to the Attorney General’s Office and other state agencies alleging District Attorney Phil Haney illegally received health insurance payments for four years during former Parish President Ernest Freyou’s administration.
Romero also alleged District Attorney’s Office staff coerced citizens to vote against him during the last election.
In a letter last month, the attorney general told Romero the allegations have no merit.
After the investigation is concluded, council members will decide if the findings should be turned over to the State Police or Attorney General’s Office for further investigation.
The resolution directs the council to complete a list of witnesses to be subpoenaed for testimony. It also asks the council to come up with a cost for the investigation and a schedule for the meeting or meetings.
So far, the only person the council has said it will ask to testify is the parish president.
Attorney pay voted down
The council voted 11-3 against paying for an attorney to represent Romero during the investigation.
Council legal adviser Dean Wattigny told the council there are state court and attorney general opinions that say public funds should not be used to pay for legal services for those found guilty of crimes.
He added the Home Rule Charter requires a contract before an attorney can be hired.
Wattigny said because the District Attorney’s Office provides legal services for parish government, there would be a conflict if it represented the parish president during the investigation.
Councilman Bernard Broussard said the parish president can elect to hire his own attorney, and the council could reimburse him.
Work orders questioned
Several council members asked parish Chief Administrative Officer Joel Dugas to ask Romero to be present at the next meeting to answer questions about why only council members’ work order requests have to have parish president approval before they’re submitted to the parish Public Works Department.
Councilman Ricky J. Gonsoulin said a new $60,000 computer system to handle work orders has been set up, but employees can’t use it because Romero wants the requests to pass through his office first.
Councilman Glenn Romero said he was surprised when he called the Public Works Office and was directed to the Parish President’s Office.
He said Public Works Department employees told him Errol Romero required all council member’s requests be directed to the parish president first, but if a private resident asks for a work order, Public Works employees are allowed to take it.
Glenn Romero told the council that upset him because most of the time he’s contacting the Public Works Department on behalf of a resident.
Broussard said it is wrong that the public can contact the Public Works Office directly, but council members cannot.
Romero asked to attend
Broussard told the council he wants Errol Romero to attend a parish council meeting.
The parish president left during the first half of Wednesday’s meeting. Broussard said Errol Romero has only stayed for an entire meeting once since he took office in January.
Broussard added that he wants the parish president to stay long enough to answer the council’s questions.