Former manager’s status questioned

The Orange County Drainage District plans to spend $36,500 to come up with a design for a retention pond in the south Vidor area. The consulting firm of Dodson and Associates has been hired by the district’s board.

The pond, called “No. 3,” is designed to ease flooding in residential areas. 

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Vidor’s Sheri Price asked directors how long the project would take. 

She also asked the board to reconsider an earlier decision concerning the retirement benefits of former General Manager Wilbert Duhon.

Current General Manager Mark Stephenson said the Dodson firm did the original Cow Bayou watershed study many years ago, however some inconsistencies have arisen between 2002-09.

Price said her interest in the project stems from when she lived in an area prone to heavy flooding (nearer the proposed pond). She has since moved to another location.

“Why are you consulting with another contractor? How long is this going to take?” she asked. “The first study took six years.”

Precinct 3 Director Hal LaPray said another consultation was needed because design had never been part of the original study.
Stephenson told Price, “When we speak to Dodson about the [current] project, hopefully they’ll give us a time frame.”

Price said that when she first met Duhon, she didn’t agree with him on certain issues but eventually came to admire his work with the county. 

Duhon served as district manager for seven years and was terminated by the district board 11 months before retirement eligibility.

“I was told Mr. Duhon was going to be offered a condition where he would not be cut short,” she said.

LaPray said he remembered a conversation with Price in which he told her the board would take the matter into consideration, which it did.

“I don’t know that you assured me,” she told LaPray. “But I felt like I was being assured.”

LaPray responded, “I assured you that [the board[ would give consideration … and it’s been discussed in these board meetings many, many times. [As board members] we took the opportunity to sit at this table, and we have to take whatever comes and we would hope our constituents would hope we gave it the best of consideration. I realize it’s not a popular decision.”

Price suggested the board vote to change Duhon’s stay as manager from seven years to eight years; or rehire him in another position. 

“I would think you could at least make him an assistant to Mr. Stephenson, since he originally supervised a lot of projects you’re still working on now,” she said.

LaPray responded, “We’re on the same policy as the rest of the county.” 

Stephenson added, “It’s all dependent on state legislation. I don’t think the board can say ‘We’re going to do five for [one person], and seven for [another] and six for [another].”

Board Vice President Brent Peveto asked Price if she had spoken to Duhon recently.

Price said the last time she talked with Duhon was after a newspaper article about his termination was published in May.