‘Personal reasons’ cited for leaving post
NEW ORLEANS — Deputy Mayor Michelle Thomas resigned Friday citing “personal reasons,” the city announced in a news release.
Thomas’ departure from City Hall comes after WWL-TV asked questions about a relationship she has with a man who faces state gun and drug charges.
Thomas told the station in an email Thursday that she is engaged to the man, Gary Washington, and that they also recently purchased a home together in eastern New Orleans.
Attempts Friday evening to contact Thomas were unsuccessful.
According to Orleans Parish property records, Thomas and Washington bought the home near the Parkwood Place neighborhood in July for $190,000.
Thomas, who served as deputy mayor of operations and was one of the highest-paid City Hall officials with an annual salary of $164,500, managed several departments, including the Historic Districts Landmarks Commission, New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, parks and parkways, safety and permits, sanitation, the taxicab bureau, the Vieux Carre Commission and the new “one-stop shop” for permitting.
Thomas was hired in July 2011. Her resignation was effective immediately, the city said.
“Michelle served the people of New Orleans well, and we wish her nothing but success,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a prepared statement.
Landrieu went on to thank Thomas for her work in overseeing a package of changes to the taxicab industry that was controversial among some drivers and for her work creating the “one-stop shop” in City Hall, where residents and businesses can go for land-use and permitting issues.
Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin will oversee the departments that previously reported to Thomas on an interim basis, the city said.
City Hall spokesman Ryan Berni would not say if a search or an internal move would fill her position with a permanent replacement.
Before coming to New Orleans, Thomas worked as director of grants for The Ferguson Group LLC, a government affairs group in Washington, D.C. Prior to that she worked as the business administrator for Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker. She was that city’s highest-ranking non-elected official.
Thomas came to New Orleans after a search for a replacement for Greg St. Etienne, who resigned in September 2010. A state audit found St. Etienne directed more than $400,000 in taxpayer-subsidized low-interest loans to family members while he served as the head of the nonprofit Citizens United for Economic Equity in 2008 and 2009.