Exhausted from the politics surrounding the sale and months of what she's calling "pressure" from Mayor Kathy Richard and Chamber of Commerce President Carol Knott, Chamber CEO Betty Arnaud Roy, a huge supporter of the artists community and the sale of the building to Lewis, quit the chamber April 12. Five days later, Knott also resigned, saying the chamber had become too political.
Artists community founder George Marks and participating artists were devastated to hear of Roy's resignation. At the town meeting, Marks was listed fourth to last on the 22-item agenda and slated to speak about the chamber of commerce. Before he stood, Mayor Kathy Richard sarcastically asked, "Are you representing the Chamber of Commerce?" Marks replied, "I'm speaking tonight not as an artist but as a concerned citizen and an investor in the town of Arnaudville." He then proceeded to list all the artists and business owners he's recruited to Arnaudville with the help of Roy and the chamber of commerce. He ended close to tears with the words: "Unless this is resolved, all of our hard work and progress will be in jeopardy. Mayor and council, what will you do to remedy this situation?"
After reading The Independent Weekly's recent cover story ("Arnaudville Renaissance," April 5), Knott says he called Roy and left her a voicemail asking her to meet with him to discuss it. He went to the chamber office April 10 and says he and Roy talked about Mayor Pro Temp Chad Hebert's "slaughtering" of Richard in The Independent. "She stated later [in the Teche News] that I'd intimidated her [with] the phone call," Knott says. Roy says Knott regularly became upset and called her and came by her office every time a story was written about the artists community. The day before she resigned, Roy also received a call from a supporter of Richard who told her to stay away from the artists community.
"A few minutes later, the chamber office door opens and it's the chief of police [Richard Mizzi]," says Roy. "He said, 'Miss Betty, I just had to come and tell you I overheard what's going on in the town hall, and it's going to be bad for you tonight.' I just started packing my car. I said, 'This is not worth it.' I made $800 a month. I work 12-14 hours a day. To be constantly under pressure, I don't need it. This is beginning to be a bad rep for the chamber. [Mayor Richard] wouldn't give up 'til she had me out of there."
Sixty-one-year old Knott, meanwhile, went for his regular physical checkup the week after Roy's resignation, and the doctor recommended he begin immediately taking medicine for high blood pressure. "I don't really think I need that," Knott told the doctor. "I said, I think I know what my problem is." Knott resigned that evening at a special meeting of the chamber and its board. Chamber President-elect Mike Lofton will step in as chamber leader, and the board will begin a search for a replacement for Roy.
Both Roy and Knott say they plan to lay low for a while. "That's the end of my career," says Roy. "That makes me sad. It wasn't for the money; it was doing something that I felt was very honorable to do for the community."
As for Marks' question at the town meeting ' what the mayor and council plan to do to remedy the situation ' he received no response. "I think we all know the reason Miss Betty resigned is because of the influence of some of the individuals at that desk," he angrily said at the meeting. "I've invested a lot of money in Arnaudville, a lot of money."
Richard retorted: "George, you and I tried to talk at the last meeting. It's just accusations against the mayor. I still want to try. This is not the first time Betty quit the chamber. [Roy says she resigned the first time in 2004 to care for her dying mother.] We're supposed to get together and move forward with this town. We have all done great things with this town, but it's become this gossipy place. I am sick of it.
"I will be the first one to admit I'm not perfect," she continued. "I have been attacked so much. I had my different opinion. I couldn't say yes [to the sale] right away. I had to listen. I couldn't stop you from growing. How could I stop you? The minute I didn't agree with you or Debbie [Lagrange] â?¦ I'm the one that's getting smashed about it. This article [in The Independent Weekly] was ridiculous."
Asked during the meeting why she did not return repeated calls for The Independent's April 5 story, Richard said, "You can write all you want. I'm not going to step down to that level. It's a vendetta. It's an election year."
An April 19 article in the St. Martin Parish Teche News also has the town in an uproar. Titled "Fire, Water and Change: Artists' community develops in Arnaudville," it references Richard's longtime feud with resident Debbie LaGrange and cites Knott as partnering with Richard in her opposition to the artists community. Knott says the only problem he had with the artists were some nude sculptures in the front window of William Lewis' home and studio. He admits he and Roy disagreed over the art. "I told her I don't think that's the image that we want to portray in Arnaudville."
Despite his opinion, Knott voted for a resolution to sell the waterworks building to artist Lewis and even presented the resolution at a council meeting. "I felt this would be a great thing for the town," he says.
But as the situation escalated, Knott felt he was getting too close to the issue. His brother-in-law Ricky LaGrange sits on the council, and two of his sisters-in-law work for the town hall. He's been friends with Mayor Richard for 40 years. "I kinda saw myself in a pickle," he says. "I think it's a political atmosphere within the council, and it had gotten political in the chamber. I'd like to know how many times when Betty and I were talking, I said, 'Betty, the chamber cannot be a political entity. We have got to keep the new people coming in happy, we've got to keep the old businesses happy, and we got to work with the town.'"
Richard echoes those sentiments. "We're all adults, and we're all working for the same goal," she says, before taking a jab at her opponents. "I feel that Arnaudville has a very strong Chamber. It's made up of board members who are not quitters."
Arnaudville still has five months until its next mayor and council elections in September. With tempers flaring and chaos reigning at town meetings, Knott is afraid of what's to come. Richard quickly lost control of the April town meeting, which lasted more than two hours and ended with Police Chief Mizzi and a former deputy yelling at each other from across the room.
"The statement was made, not to me, but it got back to me, that what was happening here was nothing compared to what it was gonna be, and I'm thinking, whoa," says Knott. "It's been one of those fiascos, but I don't have anything against the artists community. I think if we can get past the next month â?¦ the election is still gonna be ugly as hell. There'll be a lot of name calling."
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.