Regular readers may remember our previous article on the Port of Iberia director Craig Romero dabbling in politics. According to their 2022 audit, Director Craig Romero was compensated $202,450 last year to exclusively run day-to-day operations at the Port of Iberia. The exclusive nature of his employment isn’t a supposition. Appendix A(3) of Craig Romero’s employment contract prohibits him from rendering “services to or for any person or firm for compensation.” Additionally, A(12) insists that he “remain free of active involvement in any political campaigns.”
Last time we caught Craig Romero playing politics, his effort was relatively low-key. He praised favored elected officials while leaving off others who were equally (or even more so) praiseworthy for assisting the Port of Iberia with its core mission. However, this time it appears that he’s throwing the Port’s full support behind at least one candidate for public office.
Does the Port of Iberia Commission know about Craig Romero’s moonlighting?
Various sources have contacted us numerous times about these two issues: exclusive employment and politicking. When the calls started becoming regular and rather voluminous, I personally reached out to the commission. On June 20th, 2023, we sent all of the port commissioners a courtesy heads-up email. As of this writing, some two months later, a response has yet to be received.
After sending that email, an inside source claimed that Craig Romero admitted to commissioners that he had indeed been politicking. Information we have suggests he’s been working on behalf of Hugh Andre (R 3/10), who is currently running for State Senate in district 22. That seat is currently held by term-limited Senator Fred Mills (R 2/10). Immediately after his admission, the source said Craig Romero promised to discontinue the practice. It would be the straight and narrow from here on out.
Even with admitted violations to his employment contract, the commission renewed Craig Romero’s employment contract for another three years. That renewal took place at a Port of Iberia meeting I attended on August 15th, 2023. I had to ask for a copy of the agenda and a reminder of when the meetings take place (because they aren’t posted on the Port website). However, I still had to follow up and ask again to receive a copy.
Port of Iberia approves Craig Romero’s contract extension
Imagine my surprise to discover that Craig Romero‘s contract extension had already been discussed and agreed to in a private, side-bar before the meeting. The incredibly short discussion ahead of the vote revealed that the private meeting had only been attended by Craig Romero and three commissioners: Shane Walet, Mark Dore, and Pat Broussard. Now that the official meeting was on, Pat Broussard motioned to extend Craig Romero‘s contract, second by Mark Dore. The commission then dutifully voted to “approve” a decision that was made out-of-view of the public before the official public meeting was called to order. This certainly appears to be a violation of Louisiana’s open meetings law: LARS§ 42:12(A).
There was no public comment ahead of the vote. Instead, it was scheduled for 7:35pm at the very end of the agenda. Allowing for public comment at the end of a meeting is against the spirit of the open meetings law. The purpose of public comment is to allow members of the public to feel like their input is important and necessary for the conduct of the commission’s business. How, then, can public comment be impactful if it’s made after the vote has already taken place? If public testimony were to change a commissioner’s mind, attempting to go back to a previously decided question would be “out of order.” Which is why our legislature enacted LARS§ 42:14(D), which provides “…each public body conducting a meeting … shall allow a public comment period at any point in the meeting prior to action on an agenda item upon which a vote is to be taken.”
Romero’s compensation was set at the “H” level. We won’t know what that means until after we get responses to records requests for his new contract and pay rate.
Once re-elected, Craig Romero crawfishes
Readers who’ve been paying attention to politics for a while know how this works. When they’re running for office, politicians are the most conservative person imaginable. Election or re-election must be so traumatic that it results in instant amnesia, not to be cured until exactly 365 days ahead of their next election campaign. An old hand at politics, Craig Romero‘s director job is not so different. Now that he’s been “re-elected” to another three-year term, he can do what he pleases without fear.
Next thing you know, it’s game on for the Port of Iberia to start politicking again. Soon after the renewal of his contract, sources report that Craig Romero began making phone calls to get sign locations – and some pretty novel ones at that. Here’s one with a sugar cane trailer full of signs. In recent days, it mysteriously appeared on the side of the road in Iberia Parish. Sources say Craig Romero called in a favor to make it happen.
Who is the Port of Iberia supporting for State Senate?
Have I mentioned our Scorecards? We’ve been growing this concept to include much more than just the legislature and senate. There are a few City and Parish Councils, too. However, now that you, dear reader, will be expected to research candidates in various positions throughout government, we’ve expanding our scorecards to include candidates. While we may never be able to complete such a huge project with our limited resources, we’re making a strong effort. If we don’t get to yours, just remember there are 105 legislative, 39 senate, and who knows how many city and parish council and school board seats. That’s a tall order.
In that vein, Hugh Andre (R 3/10) is one of our prototype candidate scorecards. He made the list early because he’s been popping up in tips related to the Port of Iberia in our various inboxes. Candidate scorecards can be tough to create because most candidates don’t have voting records. However, our scorecards are not based solely on voting. In fact, that’s not even our strongest metric. We like to pay close attention to who someone choses to associate with. It’s the “birds of a feather” philosophy. So, who does Hugh Andre think is worthy of his time and effort?
Here’s a partial list of Hugh Andre’s clique:
- Clay Schexnayder (R 1/10) – here’s Hugh taking photos with Clay Schexnayder.
- Page Cortez (R 1/10) – here’s Page Cortez speaking at Hugh Andre’s coming out party.
- Paula Davis (R 3/10) – here’s Hugh Andre hanging out with Paula Davis.
- Mike Reese (R 4/10) – here’s a group photo of Hugh Andre’s coming out party, Mike Reese is on the left.
- Glenn Armentor – either the former or current Democratic Party Chairman of Lafayette. Glenn Armentor is seated in front.
- Vincent Pierre (D 1/10) – is the chairman of the legislative black caucus. Vincent Piere is the rightmost member of the standing group.
- Terry Landry – former Democrat legislator. Terry Landry is standing next to, and slightly behind Vincent Pierre.
- Stuart Bishop (R 2/10) – is on Hugh Andre’s host committee.
- Gerald Boudreaux (D 1/10) – is on Hugh Andre’s host committee.
- O’neal Malbrough – is reportedly an engineer for the Port of Iberia who handles some $90 million in contracts for the AGMAC project. His name appears no fewer than one hundred (100) times in Port of Iberia meeting minutes.
If the Port of Iberia’s commissioners are serious about their mission, they would do well to review LARS§ 18:1465. That statute prohibits the use of public resources “to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate.” To this writer, a full-time employee and representative of the Port of Iberia coordinating placement of signs for a candidate certainly looks like “urging.” However, if the Port of Iberia insists on continuing to use its resources in furtherance of a candidate’s political campaign, the government entities ultimately responsible for the Port’s funding may be less eager to continue their support at the current level.