La. Parish Says President’s Son Is Puppetmaster

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The son of the president of Iberia Parish in Louisiana has injected himself into government affairs for his own benefit, and is acting as the puppeteer behind his father’s actions, a federal lawsuit claims.
     The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the parish in the federal court in Lafayette, contends that Shane Romero actions not only call into question the integrity of his father’s office, but have kept officials from effectively administering the operations of the government and its provision of services.
     It seeks to have Romero, an attorney, bared from all non-public offices in the Iberia Parish courthouse and to limit communication between he and his father, Errol Romero.
     According to the lawsuit, Shane Romero’s efforts to insinuate himself into the affairs of Iberia Parish began even before his father’s election, when he got himself hired to represent the parish without the knowledge or consent of parish council.
     In that role, Romero got himself paid $389,000 for purported legal services rendered, and another over $35,000 in undocumented retainer fees, the lawsuit says.
     After the elder Romero was sworn into office, Shane Romero began working as his father’s “pro bono” legal advisor in lieu of District Attorney Phil Haney, who President Romero immediately challenged on charges of “self dealing,” the lawsuit says.
     In 2012, the parish president’s office sought to unseat Haney on allegations of “public payroll fraud,” “coercion,” “malfeasance,” and various “conflicts of interest.” The complaint was clearly written by someone with “extensive legal expertise,” the lawsuit says.
     Months later, the attorney general concluded an investigation into the complaints which it said “totally cleared the District Attorney’s Office of any wrongdoing whatsoever,” and a third party was hired to determine who was behind the president’s allegations.
     Results of a two-year investigation were turned over last week, and concluded “the Parish President continues to consult his son Shane on matters involving official acts of the Office of Parish President.”
     After Shane Romero attempted to represent an employee against the parish using his privileged access to government offices and files, the council attempted to deny him access by establishing a policy that required all visitors to sign in.
     Since February 2013, Shane Romero has signed into his father’s office 180 times, the lawsuit says.
     Last June, after Shane Romero banned council members from attending a parish presidential meeting to which even press were included, the council passed Resolution 2014-2010, which asked the district attorney to “take necessary legal action to enjoin any persons from the general public, and in particular Shane Romero” from the government deliberations.
     The council additionally asked the D.A. to “provide options” for “banning Shane Romero from access to the restricted areas” within government buildings.
     Errol Romero vetoed the resolution, but the council overrode his veto.
     The parish maintains the presence of Shane Romero — who is currently running for New Iberia City Judge — in the Iberia Parish Government complex, “poses an imminent threat to the impartial and uncompromised administration and oversight of Iberia Parish Government.”
     Not only does it threaten “the integrity of the office of the Parish President, but the integrity of all government branches and the American democratic system of checks-and-balances.”
     The parish, which is the equivalent of a county in other states, seeks damages for violation of the separation of powers and injunctive relief.
     It is represented by Gary McGoffin of Durio McGoffin Stagg & Ackermann in Lafayette, La.
     Neither Parish President Errol Romero nor Shane Romero replied to requests for comment. Phil Haney also did not respond to requests for comment.

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