City-Parish President Joey Durel is adding “former” to his government title. In a stunning turn of events mid-day Friday, Durel announced that he is resigning his position as chief executive of Lafayette Consolidated Government effective immediately and has appointed himself executive director of the beleaguered Lafayette Housing Authority. The move evidently bears the imprimatur of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which assumed control of the LHA earlier this week. The switch in job titles carries with it a significant hike in pay for Durel, who will go from earning roughly $96,000 annually as city-parish president to the more substantial salary of $186,000 as head of the housing agency, with another $26,000 in perks that include use of an LHA van and a hair and clothing allowance.
“This is in the best interest of not only the LHA, but LCG as well,” Durel says in a brief press release announcing the move. “I plan to run the federally subsidized LHA just as I did consolidated government — like a business.”
Utilizing a little-known clause in the Lafayette Home Rule Charter, Durel convened an emergency meeting of the City-Parish Council Friday morning, which voted to appoint District 9 Councilman William Theriot as interim city-parish president. Theriot will have the option of seeking either his council seat or the city-parish president position this fall since both jobs are up for re-election. The council will consider nominations to fill Theriot’s council seat at its next meeting.
Reached via cell phone at Country Cuisine, where he was dining and playing bourrée wtih friends Friday afternoon, Durel defends what LCG’s Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley derides as “despotic.”
“This isn’t about the money,” Durel insists. “It’s about my most vulnerable constituents — constituents who have been underserved by an agency that’s supposed to be helping them. Yes, the money will be better, and I’ll finally be able to buy nice things and have a real River Ranch address, but this is about the children.”
In what will widely be viewed as the extension of an olive branch, Durel also announced that he is reappointing three LHA board members he ousted last year. Joe Dennis, John Freeman and Leon Simmons have each agreed to return to the board.
“With Mr. Durel’s fiscal finesse and his long-standing efforts to help the poorest in Lafayette Parish, I look forward to moving forward,” Dennis says.
It’s unclear whether Durel’s resignation and self-appointment are even legal. Reached late Friday morning, LCG’s chief counsel, Mike Hebert, confirms he’s researching the matter. However, HUD’s Dan Rodriguez, who had taken the post of acting LHA executive director, also defends Durel’s action, saying he believes it would stand up to a legal challenge. “We’re the feds,” Rodriguez says. “We can do what we want.”
Rodriguez also is quick to note that he never wanted to be in Lafayette anyway, away from his family and friends in Houston. Durel’s appointment clears the way for him to return home, as Durel is expected to begin running the agency immediately. HUD had expected to name a new executive director who would take six months to a year to train.
Durel adds that should the Lafayette Charter Commission recommend a deconsolidation proposition and voters approve it, he will consider a run in 2015 for Lafayette mayor. “I love the city of Lafayette — the parish not so much, but definitely the city,” he says. “But right now I got to do what’s in the best interests of LHA clients and Joey Durel.”
[Editor's Note (April 4, 2011): This story is an April Fool's joke. Joey Durel happily remains the city-parish president of Lafayette and intends on seeking re-election this fall.]
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.