Heated exchange at emergency Sewerage & Water Board meeting

Heated exchange at emergency S&WB meeting

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - There was a heated emergency meeting of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board just a day after a major shake-up of top level staffers. Now, we're learning that the acting executive director resigned.

"Mayor, keep in mind, I remind you in the past that the people put you in office, you understand?" said Larry Morgan.

Citizens shouted at Mayor Latoya Cantrell, interrupting a vote during the emergency meeting Tuesday.

"Just now you are showing me that you're all about yourself because you are cutting the people out," shouted Morgan.

"What you're showing me, sir, is that you definitely know how to be disrespectful," Cantrell responded.

That heated exchange happened as the board approved a replacement for Acting Executive Director Jade Brown Russell.

"Ms. Russell tended her resignation voluntarily," said Cantrell. "It is just the best thing to do at this time, given the needs of the Sewerage & Water Board and even the scrutiny that the agency has been under that has nothing much to do with raises. It's across the board, so we don't need to be distracted. We need to stay focused and that's what were doing."

The mayor says Russell's resignation wasn't because of the big raises that were recently given to top-tier employees who were already making six figures.

Reporter: "Were you aware of that before it happened?"

Cantrell: "No, I was not. What I have been told by board members is no, we had no indication, nothing. We saw no paperwork. We didn't know."

Those pay hikes happened last month shortly before the agency resumed shutting off water to delinquent customers. That doesn't sit well with some New Orleanians.

"It's wrong, Mayor Cantrell, that you're turning your back upon the people. We believed in you. The people believed in you and put you in office, and now that you have gave the Sewerage and Water Board the authority and right to turn off the people water, you deceived the people, Cantrell," said Morgan.

"I knew about this, I knew about the actions of the folks who gave themselves raises almost three weeks ago. I'm sure that you knew it, but you only decide to take action when the news media is standing on your doorsteps," said Pat Bryant.

"That's not true, and so - it's just not true," said Cantrell.

At Tuesday's emergency meeting, the board approved naming retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral David Callahan to temporarily oversee the agency until the new permanent Executive Director arrives. Callahan will only be on the job two weeks before that happens.

Copyright WVUE 2018. All rights reserved.