Council members say S&WB has lost public's trust, needs new leadership

Council members say S&WB has lost public's trust, needs new leadership

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - After an explosive five-hour meeting at City Hall Tuesday, City Council members say action must be taken.

"The most shocking thing to me is that the heads of these agencies were not being honest with us," said Councilwoman Susan Guidry. "Not being honest with us or the public, and that that put people at risk."

"The City Council, the mayor and to the people of New Orleans are being lied to by officials with the Sewerage and Water Board," said Councilman Jason Williams.

After initially saying the pumping system was operating at full capacity during Saturday's deluge, water board leaders revealed that 14 pumps were down, eight of which were broken.

"Cover-up often times is worse than the actual incident, and that's what we're seeing right here and it's offensive," Williams said.

Council members also grilled the head of the city's Department of Public Works, Mark Jernigan, about the many broken and non-functioning storm drains around the city.

"And for that reason, heads have to roll," Guidry said. "I mean, there's a total lack of trust now."

Water board Executive Director Cedric Grant announced he'll retire at the end of hurricane season, while Jernigan is resigning.

"We need forward-thinking people and people who understand that they are responsible to the public in those positions," Guidry said.

"I was really hoping Cedric would say it was his people that lied to him and that he didn't know the truth," said Councilman James Gray.

Williams said it's clear the public has zero confidence in the Sewerage and Water Board right now.

"I think the Sewerage and Water Board needs a real change agent," Willams said, "not just somebody that's been there for a while. They can come from anywhere in the world. I just need them to be an expert in what we are dealing with in the city of New Orleans, and I want them to be honest."

The water board meets Thursday at 9 a.m., and the flood and more firings are sure to take center stage.

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