News alert: Council votes to let mosquito agency director retire

    East Baton Rouge Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control Director Todd Walker, left, and Assistant Director Randy Vaeth.

    The embattled director of the parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control district, entomologist Todd Walker, will resign from his position effective June 8, following a termination hearing by a Metro Council that has been unhappy with the way he manages spending at his agency.

    The council voted 9-0 on a motion sponsored by Council members Chandler Loupe and Scott Wilson to effectively allow Walker to resign. A substitute motion by Dwight Hudson and Matt Watson that would have fired Walker failed on a vote of 2-7.

    Though Walker will be able to retire, the council voted to place him on administrative leave, meaning his days heading the agency are effectively over.

    The termination hearing, which was the subject of a failed lawsuit filed by Walker’s attorney last month, lasted less than one hour, most of which was spent behind closed doors at Walker’s request.

    Before the council went into executive session, Walker’s assistant director and the man who will succeed him as acting director, Randy Vaeth, and two members of the MARC board of commissioners spoke about Walker’s accomplishments and abilities as a scientist and administrator.

    But when it came time for Walker to speak on his behalf and face council questioning, he requested it be done in private, as is his right.

    The executive session lasted about 30 minutes.

    In February, council members Hudson and Watson introduced the measure leading up to today’s action, after Walker—under fire for questionable spending at his agency’s new $11.2 million facility and for the free rein he has given to MARC’s construction program manager, politically-connected engineer Gary Beard—refused their request that he step down.

    Walker has fought the council’s efforts to terminate him, suing the Metro Council to try to block the move. At a hearing in late March, however, a 19th Judicial District Court ruled in the council’s favor, clearing the way for today’s hearing to go forward.

    In a recent cover story, Business Report details how lax oversight by the council enabled the agency to increase the cost of the project through hundreds of change orders and grow its size and scope, while continuing to extend the management contract with Beard, who served as an airport commissioner from 2013-2015 and continues to rake in monthly fees through a separate agreement as a subcontractor at the airport.