May 4, 2012 11:20 AM by AP

Iberia council delays investigation

NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - The Iberia Parish Council is taking another week to sort out details of a council-conducted investigation into a conflict between the District Attorney's Office and Parish President Errol Romero.

During its investigation, the council plans to issue subpoenas for witnesses to appear at special meetings at which council members will question them.

The Advocate reports the council passed a resolution Wednesday that delayed approving plans for the investigation until its May 9 meeting.

The council has said it's conducting the investigation because of a series of letters Romero wrote earlier this year to the Attorney General's Office and other state agencies alleging District Attorney Phil Haney illegally received health insurance payments for four years during former Parish President Ernest Freyou's administration.

Romero also alleged District Attorney's Office staff coerced citizens to vote against him during the last election.

In a letter last month, the attorney general told Romero the allegations have no merit.

After the investigation is concluded, council members will decide if the findings should be turned over to the State Police or Attorney General's Office for further investigation.

The resolution directs the council to complete a list of witnesses to be subpoenaed for testimony. It also asks the council to come up with a cost for the investigation and a schedule for the meeting or meetings.

So far, the only person the council has said it will ask to testify is the parish president.

The council voted 11-3 against paying for an attorney to represent Romero during the investigation.

Council legal adviser Dean Wattigny told the council there are state court and attorney general opinions that say public funds should not be used to pay for legal services for those found guilty of crimes.

He added the Home Rule Charter requires a contract before an attorney can be hired.

Wattigny said because the District Attorney's Office provides legal services for parish government, there would be a conflict if it represented the parish president during the investigation.


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