Questions surround parks & rec director’s ‘retirement’

Image courtesy The Acadiana Advocate
Longtime Parks & Rec Director and Louisiana state Sen. Gerald Boudreaux

The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory had an uneasy time explaining an email he sent to council members Tuesday morning claiming veteran Parks & Recreation Director Gerald Boudreaux would be “announcing his retirement from LCG soon.” 

Near the end of his prepared remarks at LCG’s regular coronavirus briefing Tuesday afternoon, Guillory said he’d “accepted the retirement” of Boudreaux, who has led the department since 1985, serving both Democratic and Republican administrations as far back as Mayor Dud Lastrapes (1980-1992).

Pushed by reporters about whether he’d met with Boudreaux earlier in the day to ask for his resignation, the mayor was evasive, saying he and Boudreaux “had a little talk [Tuesday morning] and came to the realization that it was probably time to go ahead and retire.” 

“Yes or no did you ask him to resign?” KATC-TV3 reporter Chris Welty asked. “We’ve come to the realization that it would be better to bring in new ideas,” Guillory responded, after insisting on clarifying that Boudreaux’s departure is a retirement and not a resignation.

Boudreaux isn’t commenting. “I’m evaluating my options at this time, and I will have no further comment,” Boudreaux told The Current Tuesday. 

“It’s an HR, personnel situation at this time that will play itself out,” Guillory said. 

A state senator elected to his second term last year, Boudreaux became a part-time director under Mayor-President Joel Robideaux in 2016 to begin serving in the Senate. “Are you worried about any political backlash from Baton Rouge, if you did, indeed, behind closed doors ask him to resign?” Welty asked.

“When you sit in the chair that I sit in you should not make decisions based on political ramifications,” Guillory responded.

Like every department within LCG — save for public safety, roads and drainage — Parks & Recreation is facing at least a 20 percent budget reduction due to the impact of coronavirus on LCG’s finances. It’s unclear whether impending cuts to the department played any role in Boudreaux’s departure. “The truth is no decisions have been made, but also the truth is everything is on the table,” Guillory told The Acadiana Advocate’s Claire Taylor, who asked whether there was any truth to speculation some recreational centers would be closed. Was that among the reasons Boudreaux is stepping away, Taylor prodded? “I think it’s probably a number of things,” Guillory said.

Boudreaux said in a May 22 press release that reductions thus far affect the summer enrichment camp and the therapeutic day camp, which offers recreational and leisure opportunities to seniors and disabled children and adults

“Those came at my recommendation,” Boudreaux tells The Current. “We’re not ready to have summer camps. Even at Phase 2 any camps have to operate like a day-care facility,” with many additional restrictions on top of the ongoing capacity guidelines. The Lafayette Parish School System had been the meal partner, and because it’s not having in-class instruction during the summer, that too was canceled. “Now we don’t have the feeding component,” Boudreaux says. “We’re just not ready to do it.” Boudreaux notes that he is finalizing the details of an alternative plan to replace some of the activities offered by the therapeutic program.

In the email to council members, Guillory said Frank Wittenberg is serving as acting director and is expected to be appointed interim director. Wittenberg is the manager of athletic programs, therapeutic recreation and parks maintenance, according to LCG’s website.

“For 36 years this gentleman served our community with distinction,” Guillory told reporters of Boudreaux. “For 36 years he woke up and he gave all he had to Lafayette Consolidated Government, to the city and to the parish of Lafayette.”

This story has been updated with additional information from the coronavirus briefing and the mayor-president's email to council members.