NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish Council passed a resolution 10-2 Wednesday to postpone an investigative meeting into a conflict between the Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero and the 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
The council instead will hire Lafayette attorney Donald Washington to advise the council on how to put a package of questions and complaints together to submit to Louisiana State Police or state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office so one or both of those agencies can investigate the allegations.
Council members David Ditch, Glenn Romero, Troy Comeaux, Thomas Landry, Bernard Broussard, Roger Duncan, Jerome Fitch, Aquicline Arnold, Marty Trahan and David Wayne Romero voted for the resolution.
Council members Curtis Baudoin and Lloyd Brown voted against the resolution. Maggie Daniels and Ricky J. Gonsoulin were absent.
The council will spend $5,000 to hire Washington.
Baton Rouge attorney Lewis Unglesby, representing Errol Romero at the meeting, said that they would welcome and comply with a State Police investigation should one take place.
Baudoin said the public did not want the investigation.
The council is hiring the attorney because of a series of letters the parish president wrote earlier this year to the Attorney General’s Office alleging that District Attorney Phil Haney’s office has been illegally receiving health insurance payments from the parish for the past four years.
Errol Romero also has said that Haney’s office staff coerced residents into voting against him in the last election. The attorney general told Errol Romero in a letter last month that the allegations had no merit and that the health insurance allegations may violate state law concerning filing false allegations. He added that the taking of affidavits in the voter intimidation allegations may have violated state law as well.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
NEW HIRES INVESTIGATION: The council also unanimously passed a resolution to pay accounting firm Kolder, Champagne, Slaven and Co. $4,500 to conduct the second part of the investigation into Errol Romero’s office.
According to draft investigation procedures submitted to the council, the auditing firm will look into new hires the parish president has made since taking office. The firm’s staff will review the job descriptions for the executive secretary, maintenance superintendent, office assistant, chief administrative officer, personnel director and director of permits, planning and zoning.
The accounting firm staff members will then see if the parish government employees holding those positions meet the requirements for those positions. They also will examine the benefits those positions receive, time clock records and other information.
The audit is a result of allegations made to council members anonymously that some newly hired employees did not meet parish charter requirements because they are not qualified for their jobs, that some new employees are not doing their assigned work and that some new hires also are not conducting work not in their job descriptions while on the clock.
If wrongdoing is discovered, the findings will be turned over to State Police.
COUNCIL MEETINGS: The council also voted unanimously to reduce the number of meetings a month from three to two. Instead of having meetings the first, second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, the council will have two meetings on the second and fourth Wednesday starting in June.