Iberia rejects hiring request

NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish Council voted 7-5 Wednesday to deny Parish President Errol “Romo” Romero’s request to hire a new chief administrative officer.

Ricky Verret, the CAO candidate, is the second candidate to be voted down since Joel Dugas resigned the position in June.

Scott Decuir, the first person recommended to take over the position in late June, was also voted down.

Council members Glenn Romero, Jerome Fitch, Aquicline Arnold, David Wayne Romero, Bernard Broussard, Roger Duncan and Marty Trahan voted against the resolution to hire Verret. Council members Maggie Daniels, Lloyd Brown, Curtis Baudoin, David Ditch and Ricky J. Gonsoulin voted for it. Troy Comeaux and Thomas Landry were absent.

The CAO is the top administrative position in parish government, overseeing most of its operations.

The parish president said he was disappointed in the council for again denying his request. He added that he will not allow the council to decide whom he will hire.

Fitch said he had voted for the parish president’s earlier nominees but could not vote for Verret after hearing “things” about him that changed his mind. Fitch did not elaborate.

Daniels said personal issues about Verret should not affect the council’s decisions on who to hire. She said Verret seemed like a professional person who would serve the parish well.

Five members of the public spoke in favor of Verret’s appointment.

Parish resident Jerry Conrad said the parish needed to approve Verret’s appointment so that the parish could move forward.

Verret was present but did not speak during the meeting.

Other items discussed during the meeting Wednesday included:

LEVEE TAX: During the council Finance Committee meeting held after the regular meeting, the council voted unanimously in favor of creating a sales tax district for the Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District and setting a date of April 6 for the election. The state also has election dates of May 4, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16 next year. In addition to a half-cent sales tax, the levee board is seeking a 2-mill property tax as part of a plan to raise a combined total of at least $7 million a year to fund a $120 million loan.

Levee district member Ronnie Gonsoulin said they hope to build a 20-foot-tall levee that will be constructed parallel to the coast to protect against erosion and storm surges. He said the total project would cost more than $400 million, but the district needs $120 million as matching funds to obtain state and federal dollars.

The committee agenda item does not become final until it is presented to the full council for consideration, which will be at its next meeting Nov. 28.

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