Mary Roper considers new city-parish job that starts in August

Parish Attorney Mary Roper could vacate her position as the city-parish’s top legal officer within the next two weeks to take the city-parish’s newly created Retirement System job, putting an end to months of rancor between herself and the Baton Rouge Metro Council.

Retirement administrator Jeff Yates said Roper has unofficially accepted the position of legal counsel for the City-Parish Employees Retirement System, but paperwork is still pending to make the change official.

If she formally agrees to the position, the first day of work at her new job would be Aug. 11, he said.

But Roper said Wednesday that she is continuing to “work toward a resolution, but nothing has been finalized.” She called the past several months “emotionally excruciating,” but declined further comment until the issue between herself and the Metro Council is resolved.

Last week, the Metro Council voted to approve a new legal position in CPERS with a salary range of $59,554 to $82,437. The job was created with the intention of offering it to Roper, who will end up earning about $95,000, because of her added longevity pay.

It’s a step down from her current salary of $120,994 per year as parish attorney.

But the move is intended to be a compromise between Roper and a faction of Metro Council members who have angled to oust her as the chief legal adviser for the parish.

In recent months, members of the council said they had lost confidence in Roper’s leadership and set a personnel hearing where she would have fought to keep her job. The hearing, which Roper requested be public, was set for June and was expected to be ugly. Ahead of the hearing, council members attacked Roper’s performance and ability to manage, and Roper accused the attorneys on the council of targeting her so they could appoint a friend to the position.

But the hearing was deferred to Aug. 13 in the midst of negotiations for Roper to take the new job. In the event Roper declines the job with the retirement system, the Aug. 13 personnel hearing will go on as scheduled, and the council will vote up or down to remove her.

By taking another job within the city-parish, Roper, who has worked in the Parish Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years, will be able to keep her retirement package.

If Roper decides to step aside, First Assistant Lea Anne Batson would assume the duties as acting parish attorney, said Casey Cashio, council administrator.

The council, if it chooses, could vote to name Batson as interim parish attorney, or it could appoint someone else to serve as the official interim.

Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe said if there is an opening for parish attorney, he expects that a committee of council members would advertise the job, and the council would conduct public interviews. The new parish attorney will have to be approved by a vote of the full council.

Roper was appointed parish attorney in 2008 when Wade Shows stepped down to focus on his private practice. Roper previously served as his first assistant.

The parish attorney provides legal guidance to the Metro Council, Mayor’s Office and various city departments. She also oversees the City Prosecutor’s Office and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz/