That hope, however, was quickly dashed as Romero and the council have been at odds on just about every issue imaginable, a political standoff largely attributable to some new blood.
Holly Leleux-Thubron represents one of the casualties of the council’s war against Romero’s administration and is the reason for a letter of demand filed on her behalf with the council. That letter, and possible lawsuit, will be discussed in executive session during tonight’s council meeting.
Leleux-Thubron was one of Romero’s first appointees upon taking office at the start of 2012. She was hired in February that year as a maintenance superintendent for the Public Works Department, a $38,000 job for which she had no experience and only after Romero was unsuccessful at getting the council to fund a new position for her to handle public relations. Soon after, Romero began describing Leleux-Thubron as his “girl Friday,” meaning she would take on additional roles, namely the handling of media and public relations for the parish president’s office.
Romero, in essence, thought he'd found a way around the council's resistance to funding a new PR position.
The council has taken issue with nearly all of Romero’s administrative appointees — so much so that the parish president has gone almost a year without a chief administrative officer following the termination of his first CAO, Joel Dugas, who left amid allegations he took money from the public to fund a crawfish boil.
Leleux-Thubron, however, was perhaps the favored bone of contention for the council, likely a result of her days covering parish government as a reporter.
Leleux-Thubron continued to work in both maintenance and as Romero’s head of public relations until her termination in September 2012, when the council finally was able to pass a resolution pulling funding from her position. The council’s rallying cry against Leleux-Thubron centered on her dual responsibility, despite that the parish president, according to Iberia Parish’s Home Rule Charter and personnel policy, has the right to bestow additional duties upon an employee. The termination of a parish employee is a power held by the parish president, not the council.
In a separate letter sent to Council Chairman Roger Duncan, Leleux-Thubron's legal counsel, New Iberia lawyer Mike Moity, writes:
[T]he Charter and Personnel Policy Manual clearly indicate that the Parish President must, in fact, recommend termination of any employee in the executive workforce, and that includes Mrs. Leleux-Thubron. My understanding is that the Parish President has not only not recommended the termination of Mrs. Leleux-Thubron, but he has fought very hard on Mrs. Leleux-Thubron's side, indicating that she has done an excellent job and fulfilled the obligations of her position. Without the recommendation of the Parish President, Mrs. Leleux-Thubron's termination violates clear statutory law and I believe the Council is in jeopardy of a lawsuit against it.
Leleux-Thubron’s demand letter now comes as she prepares to move out-of-state with her family, a decision she credits to all the drama caused by the parish council over the last two years.
“This has been such a nightmare for my family, and yes, it’s one of the main reasons we’re moving,” Leleux-Thubron tells The IND.
According to the letter of demand, Leleux-Thubron seeks to recover damages valued at about $350,000. The potential lawsuit not only targets the council as a whole, but also the personal estates of the eight council members who voted in favor of her termination last fall, including Tommy Landry, Glenn Romero, Ricky Gonsoulin, Jerome Fitch, Marty Trahan, Roger Duncan, Troy Comeaux and Bernard Broussard.
Sixteenth Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney has hired Lafayette attorney Gary McGoffin to handle Leleux-Thubron’s claim; McGoffin would represent Iberia Parish Government in the event a lawsuit is filed.
"I'm not going to vote to just hand out money to anyone," says council chairman Duncan. "If we have to go to court to fight this, then I'll vote to go to court."
Leleux-Thubron's letter of demand is slated for an executive session discussion during tonight’s council meeting. We’ll keep you posted.