Once again, the embattled New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board are having a change of leadership. Just two weeks before Ghassan Korban is set to take over as the board’s permanent executive director, the current acting director was let go.
The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans will have yet another interim director — its fourth since last summer’s widespread flooding — Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced Monday (Aug. 20). David Callahan, a retired Coast Guard rear admiral, is replacing Jade Brown-Russell.
In addition, Cantrell said that three top deputy directors have turned in their resignations: Ronald Doucette, the deputy director of safety and risk management; Valerie Rivers, who led logistics; and Sharon Judkins, who oversaw human resources. The three will not receive severance packages, the mayor said.
Cantrell said she had urged Brown-Russell to ask for the resignations, which took effect immediately Monday.
It was not immediately clear what role Brown-Russell will play in the Sewerage & Water Board going forward. The mayor said directors of the Sewerage & Water Board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to make Callahan’s appointment official, and to take action on Brown-Russell’s role.
The Sewerage and Water Board has been under fire last summer when the city suffered severe flooding during a rainstorm. It was later found out that the board had not disclosed that many of the city’s pumps and the electric turbines required to operate them had not been working. Drainage emerged as a leading issue during the recent election for mayor.
Ever since then, the board has been a dumpster fire. For example, these three deputy directors who were just fired had just been given huge raises in July and credited with those raises from the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, the board is experiencing severe financial strain. Over 17,000 New Orleans residents and businesses have refused to pay their water bills, costing the board nearly $22 million. The board has recently begun shutting off service to non-paying customers.
So the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board will have a new executive director for a grand total of two weeks. This doesn’t strike me as the best idea, but what do I know.