Parish Attorney: Metro Council has authority to oust mosquito agency head

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

    Among the items that will be introduced at Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting is a measure to remove the executive director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control District, entomologist Todd Walker.

    Earlier this month, Council members Dwight Hudson and Matt Watson said they would introduce the item after Walker refused their request to step down after coming 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.

    No discussion is expected to take place on the item at Wednesday’s meeting, as the debate over firing Walker won’t come until mid-March.

    But some Metro Council members have questioned the council administrator on the council’s legal authority to remove Walker from the agency, which has its own advisory board.

    According to an opinion from the parish attorney’s office, the decision rests squarely with the council.

    “The MARC Director is an employee appointed by the Metropolitan Council,” the parish attorney’s office wrote in an email to Metro Council administrator Ashley Beck in response to the council members’ questions. As such, “… the council may remove any officer or employee appointed by it for an indefinite term, provided it shall first give such officer or employee notice in writing of its intention to remove him, containing a clear statement of the grounds for such removal and fixing the time and place …”

    The opinion cites the 1979 ordinance that created the MARC district as well as section 2:13 of the parish Plan of Government.

    Hudson and Watson say they have not polled their fellow council members on whether they will support their measure, but they are confident they have the votes, especially given the parish attorney’s opinion on the matter.

    “I have spoken to several council members and they recognize that a change is necessary, though I have not spoken to everyone,” Hudson says.

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