• 57°

Walker term starts with gesture of healing

Ron Walker began his first Commissioners Court meeting as Jefferson County Judge by receiving congratulations from his previous political opponent.

“I want to publicly congratulate you and hope that 2007 is the best year ever for the commissioners court,” Billy Job, the former Groves mayor who faced Walker as a Republican candidate in November. “I wish you the best of luck.”

Walker said the words from Job showed a lot about his character.

“This county in the last two years has undergone quite a bit of political turmoil. What you’ve just done today is a giant step in the healing process. I respect you for that,” Walker said.

The commissioners also approved the appointment of Mid-County attorney Jeff Brannick as Walker’s first assistant and Mental Health Master. Sgt. Greg Fountain of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office also received unanimous support as the new Emergency Management Coordinator for the county. Walker plans to increase the law enforcement presence in emergency planning for Jefferson County. Fountain will receive an annual salary of $77,865.

In other items, the court agreed to form committees to review current tax abatement requests and to review the county’s abatement policy in general.

As abatements are proposed, they will be reviewed by Walker, Assistant District Attorney Tom Rugg, County Auditor Patrick Swain, Tax Assessor/Collector Miriam Johnson and a representative of the precinct where the company seeking the abatement will be locating.

Commissioner Mark Domingue said the county’s current tax abatement policy expires this year, and he suggested a committee to serve through May to look over the policy and then report any recommended changes. That committee would be made up of the elected officials named in the review committee as well as any appointee that Walker thinks would have expertise.

After the regular meeting, the court adjourned into a closed session to discuss pending litigation from a former county employee. Larry Borel claims that Jefferson County Clerk forced him to retire and his filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Jefferson County and Guidry. The parties have been unsuccessful at mediation.

“There will be a final pre-trial meeting with U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield,” Rugg said. “We are meeting today so I can let the court know that we are probably going to proceed to trial.”

Borel claims that Guidry forced him to retire after 28 years with the county clerk’s office because he is white and Guidry is African American. He says he was given menial jobs on the nightshift shortly after Guidry was elected.

The next meeting of the court will be 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16 because of the Monday Martin Luther King Holiday.