Longtime city manager submits separation agreement during special meeting of the city council

Published 8:31 pm Thursday, December 22, 2022

GROVES — After two decades as city manager, D.E. Sosa has submitted a separation agreement to the City Council that was accepted Thursday night in a special meeting.

Nearly 100 people were in attendance, filling the chamber quarters and an overflow room that had police presence, for the 5 p.m. meeting.

The agenda specified an executive session to discuss Sosa’s position, the consideration of adverse employment action to the office of the city manager, voting to authorize the city attorney to conduct an investigation into allegations of Open Meetings Act violations, authorizing the city attorney to hire a third party to investigate the office of the city manager “including but not limited to a forensic account,” and potentially appointing an interim city manager.

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“Mr. Sosa has asked to review his proposed severance and retirement package in a closed session,” Mayor Chris Borne said. “If everyone would agree to that, then we will excuse ourselves. The closed session we will restrict it to only questions on the severance and retirement package. Everything else is requested to be in open meeting.”

Councilwoman Rhonda Dugas cast the sole vote against the executive session.

After nearly two hours in executive session, council members returned to announce they accepted Sosa’s separation agreement and would eliminate all other agenda items except to appoint an interim.

Borne asked for a motion to appoint Fire Chief Lance Billeaud as interim city manager.

“Chief Billeaud is a respected member of this city and also a great point of contact for all of our employees,” the mayor said. “He has been in a management role. He is very well liked, very well trusted and I believe that all of this staff will do a great job of helping him…with what we’ve got coming. I truly believe that he will do whatever is needed for this city.”

Dugas asked if Billeaud had considered the position.

“It’s a lot of emails,” she said with a laugh.

“Yes ma’am, I understand,” Billeaud said. “I get a lot of them as it is. It’s hard to speak right now based on what’s going on, but I know that it will be a smooth transition with somebody from the city. I have a very good rapport with all of the department heads down to the lowest guy on the line.”

Borne thanked everyone for attending, and thanked Sosa for 20 years of service, to which he received a standing ovation.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of the people who are here to support me,” Sosa said. “I appreciate it greatly from the bottom of my heart. This is going to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had, because I see the people that came out to support me. I was well represented and I can’t thank you enough.”

Four audience members spoke in Sosa’s support before the meeting adjourned slightly after 7 p.m.

Billeaud has been with the Groves Fire Department for 25 years with nearly three as chief. He said he will maintain his position while assuming the interim city manager role.

“I have a good staff. They can pretty much run themselves,” he said. “I don’t micromanage, so I can devote a lot of time to doing the job.”