Batiste departs amid praise from City Council
COMPTON—City Council members approved a minute-motion at the Tuesday, July 17, meeting, terminating the service agreement with interim City Manager Bryan Batiste effective on Monday, July 23.
Council members Janna Zurita, Lillie Dobson, Yvonne Arceneaux and Willie Jones voted in favor of the motion. Mayor Eric J. Perrodin cast the lone no vote.
“I do not accept your resignation,” he said.
Batiste became interim city manager after former interim City Manager Lamont Ewell resigned on Wednesday, Jan. 11, saying he inadvertently had become part of the political discord in the city.
Community members supported Batiste and petitioned Council members for his permanent appointment, but the group chose Howard Duffey as the new city manager on Tuesday, June 12.
Councilwoman Lillie Dobson expressed frustration over the decision.
“We got rid of Mr. Norfleet and that cost us money,” she said. “The search firm for his replacement cost money and a second search meant more waste.”
Dobson called Batiste a principled man who probably needs to leave “just to save his sanity.”
“Batiste did a wonderful job in spite of all the pressure and stress he faced,” she said. “He tried to balance the budget without any money, and he dealt with us, too. I can only speak for myself, but thank you for all you did. You are a blessing to this city.”
Arceneaux praised Batiste, and recognized Zurita for suggesting his appointment.
“When Mr. Ewell left we did not know what would happen,” she said. “You stepped in, fulfilled the responsibilities, and did them well.”
Jones said working with Batiste was easy.
“He was exceptionally responsive to the requests made by Council members,” he said. “You played a crucial role during a very important time. Thank you for stepping in as city manager and I wish you continued success in the future.”
Perrodin praised Batiste for addressing accrued vacation, which has been ignored by previous city managers.
“Batiste sent a memo outlining the personnel rules and regulations, which allow employees 24 times their monthly vacation entitlement,” he said “That can exceed that amount only if a department head refuses the time off request. Starting on Aug. 12, any employee who exceeds the accrued vacation limits will not earn any future vacation benefits until they are below the maximum amount. I appreciate the steps you took to resolve this problem.”
The city has an unfunded vacation liability equaling $7.9 million.
“If every employee decided to quit we would have to pay that off,” Perrodin said. “We do not have the money for bills totaling $5 million.”
Zurita did not make any comments.
Batiste told The Bulletin that he looks forward to going home to the Fire Department.
“The city has challenges, but I enjoyed taking them on,” he said. “If I knew in January what I know now, I would do the same thing. I hope to continue working on projects that push my financial recovery ideals forward with the new city manager.”
Duffey began his city manager tenure on Monday, July 23.
The next City Council meeting is on Tuesday, September 4.