Krewe of Hera gets the boot in Jefferson Parish

Just a year after its founding, and without ever actually rolling through the streets of Metairie, the Krewe of Hera has been bumped from the Jefferson Parish parade schedule following allegations of mismanagement, anger about this year’s cancelation and questions about the results of a fundraising raffle held by the organization.

The Jefferson Parish Council ousted the Krewe of Hera, which canceled its parade earlier this year, from its Lundi Gras spot during a council meeting Wednesday, replacing it with the newly formed Guardians of Atlantis.

The decision came amid comments from former riders from the krewe and a float builder that painted Hera as disorganized and unable to muster the resources or members needed to put on a parade.

“The accusations rise to a level where I do question the legitimacy of your organization,” Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said. “We have a lot of resources out on parade night. There were those questions the day before the parade was about to roll about whether you could pull it together.”

Krewe Captain Brian Landry said concerns about the parade were driven by disappointment over last year’s cancelation and personal attacks, asking the council to keep Hera on the schedule even if they conditioned it on his resignation.

“If I am the problem, if that’s what you perceive this to be, that Brian Landry is the problem, I will remove myself so these ladies can parade and so no ladies, past present or future, lose the funds invested,” Landry said.

Hera was scheduled to roll for the first time on Lundi Gras as a companion to the Krewe of Zeus, which is also captained by Landry. But both canceled a full day before the scheduled parades due to the threat of severe thunderstorms.

Rumors had circulated earlier in the Carnival season that Zeus would not roll this year.

Landry said that decision was made out of concerns for the safety of riders and parade-watchers, but others suggested the forecast was just a convenient excuse. Lee-Sheng noted that other parades, such as Orpheus and Proteus in New Orleans, went ahead on their planned routes without any problems.

Float-builder Jack Rizzuto, who also captains the Krewe of Pygmalion, said the krewe had only started trying to procure floats a month before the parade was scheduled, a nearly unheard-of request.

While the floats were prepared, Rizzuto said, he is now in a legal dispute with Hera to recover more than $45,000 he said he is owed.

“We can’t afford another black eye of people that are going out there bad-mouthing krewes,” Rizzuto said.

There were other issues with the krewe’s execution as well.

Former members, whose complaints to the council prompted Wednesday’s decision, said the throws they ordered didn’t show up until two months after Mardi Gras. When they arrived, the members found the “signature” beads they paid a premium for were generic throws that didn’t even bear the krewe’s name.

And in the lead-up to the parade, the organization’s leadership did not respond to emails and could not be reached, they said.

Landry blamed the delay in getting the riders their beads on the fact that they had been loaded onto the floats and that the former members could not find time to pick them up.

Perhaps the most serious allegation leveled during the meeting accused the krewe of failing to deliver a Harley-Davidson that had been raffled off to raise money for the krewe.

When current riders protested the decision to take the parade off the schedule and argued they were being punished for internal disputes, Lee-Sheng said the matter had turned into a criminal investigation.

“This got out of your house a long time ago,” Lee-Sheng said. “There’s a Sheriff’s Office investigation. This is very serious.”

Landry said the prize had been awarded and he was simply waiting for a waiver from the winner before revealing its result.

“It’s perception and it’s allegation,” Landry said. “Until proven to be true by anyone looking into this, its all hearsay.”

Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato confirmed that deputies are looking into the situation surrounding the raffle. He declined to comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

The Sheriff’s Office has not yet made any arrests in the case.

While Landry argued canceling the parade would hurt more women, including riders who had been promised to have their fees waived next year because of the cancelation, Lee-Sheng argued that allowing the krewe to continue would be irresponsible.

“I can’t let more women be in the same situation next year, I can’t have that on my mind,” she said.